23 January 2014

BEL AMI / PRETTY MAN

KOREAN DRAMA REVIEW: BEL AMI / PRETTY MAN



This show is zany beyond belief and made me remember how much fun it is to watch a fluffy thin-as-paper romantic comedy show that is hysterically ridiculous in every way.
Lately I have been a little bogged down in shows that take themselves too seriously so I must say this is a very refreshing change,  because too serious this show most certainly is not.

In fact I am pretty sure it knows it is silly and so half the time the plot maneuvers the characters to where the writers need them to be in the most unbelievable ways....but do I care? 
Nope!
Because even though half the plot makes absolutely no sense whatsoever (A warehouse of random socks!!) this show is just plain good fun anyway, and because its not pretending to make any sense you can just relax and enjoy it for what it is, which is silly.

Go on, read some more....  :)



The beginning:
I found the first episode a little bit tedious to be totally honest but I put this down to the fact that we needed the story setup explained before all the crazy characters could really get started on their fantastically ridiculous journeys.  Also there was a lot less of our two leads together in the first episode which is always a bummer.
But from then on, once all the more boring set up is underway, the drama gets ridiculously fun.... and quite surprising too.


This is mainly because the main character played by Jang Geun-suk is a bit of a tool and kind of a glorified prostitute. Of course it is more the classy kind that permanently gets taken on as a boyfriend, but for his time and body he is accepting cars, meals, clothes and even a freaking ritzy apartment.
So a prostitute then.

Ma Te is a guy who has coasted through his whole life just by being so goodlooking, leeching off countless rich and insecure women who pay his way.
Its actually pretty unlikable and sleazy which is an interesting place to begin with our hero. He is surly and a bit rude and seemingly cares only for the life that money can bring him, and sometimes this can be a little hard to watch when he is carelessly seducing lonely women who could do so much better (as in find someone who actually loves them back) but oh well, that's our charming Ma Te.


So when his mum passes away Ma Te meets this ridiculous, and overly sexy and smirky, spurned and bitter young woman who wants to use his status as an illegitimate son of a billionaire to get back at the family who kicked her out (she was married to the billionaires son... so Ma Te's brother). And then for whatever reason this sexy glamorous woman who does nothing but smile coyly and smirk gives Ma Te an enormous warehouse full of socks..... yes that does seriously happen! 

And from that moment on this was forever known to my husband as "that sock drama my wife is watching".
And its fantastical!! Apparently him selling these socks and making himself savvy and rich will somehow help sexy lady in her plot to get back at the evil rich family...... Oh and also he has to go "conquer" a bunch of women and learn from them like they are his sensei's.
Or something. 

Which is crazy of course but actually also kind of interesting even though it involves Ma Te seducing countless women every second all so he can get something he wants from them. Pretty low, dude!
Anyway, the point is the plot is CRAZY but I seriously did not care. It is fun watching this lump of useless self-absorbed and idiotic Ma Te learn that maybe his life isn't as fulfilling as he thought it was, and maybe there is still a lot he doesn't know yet.


The heroine is Bo Tong, played by the very beautiful IU. I am so glad they didn't try to ugly her up for her role as an 'average' girl and instead they just made her quirky as hell, to the point that at one stage she was dressed in a giant hamburger and a tutu, and another where she had a plastic watering can as a purse. She is a surprisingly fun character, all the trappings of a boring Candy type, but with just enough insaneness to her to make it interesting (and also way less crying and being noble too! Thumbs up!) 

In fact Bo Tong lives and breathes for one reason only, Ma Te. And Ma Te, being the kind of dude that he is, totally knows she worships him and uses it to his every advantage. Which again.... is pretty low.

They do have an interesting dynamic though, in that i think because they grew up together Ma Te is sometimes kind of brought back to reality by Bo Tong, for instance the first time it ever bothered him to take someone's money offered to him as a gift was when Bo Tong did it. (He still took it though, i might point out!). And also when he is seriously thinking about getting married solely to gain his girlfriends wealth, Bo Tong's words of trembling hurt and disapproval are the only thing that cracks through his shell and makes him waver for even an instant. Sure he still planned to go ahead and marry for money anyway, but at least her words did make a mark on him nonetheless.

So what I mean is despite Bo Tong's zaniness and Ma Te's total disregard towards her, she still does affect him in ways the others don't,  and I think this is because she is real, no money, glamour or games, and she reminds him what it is to be real.

Though of course we still have a long way to go with that and currently his disillusionment in his own life is only a tiny tiny niggling feeling at the back of his head,  because Ma Te is predominantly way too busy trying to get rich to really care about his feelings or anyone elses.

And all of this just left me thinking, "Man I CANNOT  WAIT until Ma Te starts liking Bo Tong. It serves him right!!" (More on this plot development and missed opportunity later).


Bo Tong's story is basically summed up by the above picture. That is everything you need to know in a nutshell!! But as she spends more time with her Oppa I hoped she would begin to realise he is a real flawed and idiotic person underneath the sheen her hero worship has given him. I think it would be quite healthy for her to develop some disillusionment in regards to Ma Te, though I don't think Ma Te himself would be very pleased if she had taken off the rose coloured glasses.

Off topic a little but it is interesting that I find a lot of the side characters just as fun as the mains, a good thing too when so much screen time is devoted to the sexy smirky lady and her many issues. In the beginning I thought she was just crazy, but I actually grew quite fond of her and became interested in her story as it evolves. Except then she got everything she ever wanted (could see her daughter again whenever she wanted) but she just skips off to America to find herself and leaves her bloody daughter behind anyway! !!???)


The middle:
The woman of the week stuff though is just totally weird. I can't even explain how totally weird it is.  Off Ma Te goes to seduce someone new, break their heart and learn some wisdom and its just all so weird!!! Also because none of the women seem to mind that he is a scheming two faced liar and the whole drama is working so hard to make Ma Te likable so we forget that really he is just using women to get what he wants. Which is kind of despicable.  Except its all played so lightly you don't even care where the moral highground starts because it hardly seems to matter. Everything is too much fun to matter. Its all just so weird.
But definitely not weirder than this:



Seriously.  What is it?
I cannot believe that someone thought this haircut was a good idea, the only saving grace is that this is a comedy and now I am laughing even more so I guess it is actually quite appropriate.


Now that guy, David, Bo Tong's second male lead, is seriously just so adorable I was dreading the moment his heart gets broken but also relishing in Ma Te's already apparent jealousy at David liking Bo Tong, it is pretty fantastic. But just look at him! Look at that face!! Ack! 


And seriously, how can you not love  man who buys a creepy real hair wig hat from a girl he clearly likes so you just think he is being nice, except when she next sees him he is stylin it up wearing it!!!! Its absolutely adorable and hilarious! ! I utterly love him (not to mention he is freaking gorgeous!!). 

And that scene where he teaches Bo Tong how to play guitar in his 'glamping' setup in the backyard....swoon. I think that is probably the moment where David realises he is actually falling in love with Bo Tong for real and gosh I cannot understand why she isn't all over him. He is adorable! That scene where he tries to get her to call him Oppa... swoon!!!

But luckily Ma Te fixes his hair in time for the groups second big home shopping air time, slicking it back into a way more palatable do that makes me feel like he is a contender for Bo Tong's affections again. Which he really is now, considering every time he sees her hanging out with the lovely David he starts grinding his teeth, even if he isn't quite sure why yet. Which just makes it all the more fun!


Towards the end:
Except from here on out the romance is kind of left on the backburner a little too long I thought, and although all the ridiculous women and secret sons were thoroughly entertaining, I didn't really feel like Ma Te's journey was transformative enough. I know he certainly did learn along the way and eventually (a bit too late for my taste though) did stop selling his body to rich influential women in exchange for goods and favours, but it still means we never see his and Bo Tong's  relationship develop as it should. Which if you ask me was a huge wasted opportunity.


For example, rather than have Bo Tong blindly loving and following her oppa around for the whole drama until, ping, he suddenly decides he has figured out what love is and wants to propose, I would have preferred Bo Tong to experience some sort of disillusionment with Ma Te, maybe finally actually seeing him for the womanising reality he is, someone who uses people to get to the top, and I would have liked if through Ma Te realising he has lost Bo Tong's respect, this one woman who truly knows him and has stuck by him all these years, he finds himself striving to be a better person,  to do better,  because of her. 

And in the process of trying to do right and win her back he realises slowly that it is more than just respect he wants,  but her love, because he has fallen in love too.

Anyway I know it would have been  hard to fit in all the above what with all the conglomerate stuff and the secret hidden sons (gosh big boss old man is portrayed as such a benevolent nice dude but he sure had a lot of women on the side!!). But I probably would have happily swapped some of that for a little more romance.
Don't get me wrong I don't mind the crazy,  and this drama was CRAZY, but I do enjoy a little bit of engaging romance mixed with my crazy because if you're not watching a romantic comedy for the romance then what are you watching it for?

Well... the comedy presumably.....

But I still stand by the fact that a romantic drama needs to have a strong element of romance!


The ending:
I had no real problem with the ending but there was no surprises there (except I guess the whole conglomerate plot was so confusing that I had no idea what was even going on so I guess I kind of was surprised in that I didn't have any idea where all that stuff was heading.)
I guess my only other real regret in what was essentially an enormously zippy and fun (and totally hilariously and ridiculous in a good way) drama would be David Choi.


I really liked Ma Te and so was happy for him to end up with Bo Tong,  but because their romance just wasn't quite fleshed out enough for me, I couldn't help but feel like David's quirky style was much more suited to making Bo Tong happy in the long run. He was an absolute sweetheart just like she was and I could easily imagine all the ridiculous yet fun stuff they could have done together, whilst trying to imagine Ma Te and Bo Tong just hanging out at home is kind of impossible.  I mean, what would they even do together? They're just so different. 

Obviously I always knew Bo Tong would end up with Ma Te but there was always a little part of me that hoped she would realise how perfect David was for her.


But oh well, it just seems like it will be a year of falling for the second leads for me, first Reply 1994's lovely Chilbongie and now pretty David Choi. 
Boo!!!!

Now for some random photos to finish:
















5 comments:

  1. Hello there! I've nominated you for a Liebster Award..
    See more here: http://brightlittleworld.wordpress.com/2014/01/23/das-ist-liebe-the-liebster-award/

    ReplyDelete
  2. Oh gosh thank you!!!
    Ddee sent me one too and actually I am going to nominate you as well (but probably not until next week when I actually write my questions) I will send you a comment to nominate you when its ready!!!
    Thanks so much!!! So exciting!

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  3. Could not agree more ! David was just too awesome. :)

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  4. I know! I still feel a bit sad every time I remember him not getting the girl..... oh well, I'll just keep him for myself!! Ha! :-)

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  5. Prior to watching the Pretty Man series, i did not read any reviews for it so i did not have any pre conceived notions about it. I thought that Jang Keun Suk's acting was really good- he has this way of owning the character he portrays-adding something as simple as mannerisms that i think turns the role into an actual person with "character" and it makes the experience of watching him unique, every time in every drama he's in.

    I did not find the storyline at all shallow like what the reviews online says. Finding out that, that is how the Korean netizens thought of this drama was really surprising. I guess there is difference in expectations between Filipino and Korean drama lovers. The plot for me, is not flat and obvious-- it is not just focused on the cute and cuddly, rich guy-poor girl scenario like other Korean series i have seen. Rather, it tackles the harshness of a cut throat world that all of us experiences every day in one way or another: Having a boss who does nothing, having the ambition to be successful, using connections unfairly to be successful,friends who betray you for their own gain, saying sorry, the beauty of motherhood, unconditional love, hopelessly falling in love, failing as parents, gossip among peers, manipulation, that every person has a weakness, how some people tend to exploit those weaknesses, etc. It covers a wide scope of realities and it is in fact anything but shallow.

    The thing i did not like is that, given that it is such a complex story, other scenes felt rushed and passive viewers might have failed to see their significance. The story, for 16 episodes could have bee compressed more effectively so that the other main leads can shine as well. They also could have taken out the scenes such as the kidnapping which for me is a failed attempt of throwing in suspense . The other two lead roles, Bo Tong and Team Leader Choi, felt like they were there as just background for the events unfolding. And it was established pretty early on that the romance between Bo Tong and Choi Joon Ha is one-sided so there was no feeling of wanting to cheer for either Joon Ha or Ma Te . Due to this, there was no real conflict between the two male leads.

    Bo Tong, for some reason was also not given the chance to be a proper love interest. I would have loved to watch their characters as much as Ma Te and Yoo Ra.

    Overall it was still a series worth watching though i would not categorize it as a romance story like his previous kdramas. If there is anything this failed at, i think that it failed to be romantic and maybe that's one of the reasons for the loss of viewership.

    But I also think that it did not deserve the bashing it got online and its low ratings. I just started getting into catching the Korean fever and if its even worth anything anymore, im still posting this comment/review for JKS because despite the brilliance i have observed in his acting, other blogs just see him as superficial and getting away with his roles by just "smiling his cat smile" and being cute. That's really a low blow and I think him leaning more into his Japanese fan-base now is in my opinion, him keeping his pride and dignity because some of his fellow Koreans are just out there bashing him and making judgments for his supposed "lack of" sense in choosing his roles. That is why I really hope that he will be received well in his upcoming 3 meals a day appearance this January. I know i am one year late but I liked Pretty Man so go JKS! fighting!

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