Thursday, May 5, 2011

First Impressions: 동안미녀/Baby-Faced Beauty

Comeback veteran star Jang Na Ra and new-kid-on-the-block Daniel Choi star in KBS2's new Monday/Tuesday drama Baby-Faced Beauty. Jang Na Ra plays the role of Lee So-Young a 34-year-old woman who winds up in some interesting situations as a result of her extremely young looks - that's the setup and hook at least. K-dramas are always marketed with a hook, and it becomes that ridiculous drama-driving force, the penultimate secret that is always on the verge of becoming known, the thing that creates the tangled webs of relationships between people who are there to be used, abused, played and betrayed. 

I've watched the first and second episodes and I'm finding it pretty entertaining. It reminds me a lot of the K-dramascape of the early 2000s, and I think it might be in large part due to Jang Na Ra who plays the female lead, chipper and persevering despite her unfortunate circumstances. It also has a goofy man-child type leading male character that was so popular in the early 2000s. Unfortunately he was left by the wayside with the coming of the 까도남. That together gives the drama a light, bright and goofy tone that's generally enjoyable. Plus the drama has the fashion industry as a backdrop, and hopefully this tone will do better for it than that of Style or Cinderella Man.

Anyway, it's good to see Jang Na Ra back on the K-scene although she inevitably brought with her her mediocre acting skills. Honestly, she does cute, cheeky and indignant to a T. Her huge eyes and squeaky voice are good for that. Where she fails is in her inability to fall far enough into that pit of self-pity and again to boil up into a fit of rage that would make her character come to life. Her sad is not sad enough and her anger is not angry enough. She needs more irrational ajumma fire, that spectacle of over-the-top pyrotechnics, especially for a character of 34. Maybe my biggest grievance with the character Lee So Young, which is not really the sole fault of Jang Na Ra, is that she is very flat. The production team just hasn't been able to capture visually the disheveled and downtrodden look that that character desperately needs to convey the depth of emotion turmoil.

Moving on to Daniel Choi who I had the pleasure of watching in Cyrano Dating Agency is an actor that perfectly portrays the agreeable bumble dolt. Choi Jin-Wook, Daniel Choi's character, is just fun and quirky and imbued with such innocence that it's like watching an over grown kid. Kids are fun. 까도남s and irreverent 재벌남s have had their share of the spotlight. I think it's time for a change, and Daniel Choi's character is pretty refreshing.

I think Baby-Faced Beauty has potential to be an easily watchable and entertaining show. The plot seems pretty predictable. Lee So Young, mistaken for 25, will be forced to endure the being treated as a lesser for being poor, young, and unexperienced. Withstanding the humiliation with her tenacious and optimistic attitude she will rise above to showcase her yet unleashed skills and talents. Specifically her sister will trip her up. Her supervisor will hate her. She'll win the respect and loyalty of her co-workers. The big-boss will fall for her, but she'll ultimately end up for the the young'in. I think the cards are stacked against the big-boss seeing as he older, a divorcee with a child. The ultimate symbol of success for the character would be being able to nab a younger successful man, and from what we can tell so far bumble dolt is also from a rich family. So, we'll see what happens, provided the show doesn't end up in the weeds forcing me to quit on it, but that's also left to be seen.

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