The “Countdown to Lee Min Ho” will now commence. Yup. I won 2 of the coveted tickets to see the man himself, live and in person, March 10th in Los Angeles. So to celebrate I will be publishing 2 critiques a week until the glorious event. I will review all of the Lee Min Ho dramas I’ve seen to date: “Boys Over Flowers”, “Personal Taste”, “City Hunter”, “Faith” and “I Am Sam”.
We’ll begin with “Boys Over Flowers” for several reasons. It was, after all, my very first Korean drama and continues to be a ‘gateway’ drama for many a new drama fan. It is also rather iconic in its own right. Iconic in that it contains all of the classic elements (and clichés, of course) of the standard Korean drama, and that it launched several young people into international stardom.
Storyline/Synopsis: My rating 7/10
Geum Jan Di is a spunky poor girl who, by a twist of fate, is given a scholarship to the most exclusive, expensive school in Korea: Shin Hwa. She promptly butts heads with the school’s elite, the “F4”, not only known at Shin Hwa School, but apparently famous throughout Seoul by reputation (and good looks): Goo Joon Pyo, leader of the F4 and heir to the Shin Hwa fortune, Yoon Ji Hoo, grandson to the former President, So Yi Jung, a famous artisan and well-known ‘player’ and Song Woo Bin, son of the Mafia boss and playboy. The story centers on the difficult romance between Geum Jan Di and Goo Joon Pyo, with Yoon Ji Hoo thrown in to make a nice love triangle. (One of the few real triangles seen in dramas!)
Script/Acting: My rating 8/10
Classic drama elements and a certain amount of predictability prevail, but somehow they don’t detract much from the overall entertainment value in this delightful, now classic, drama. The overacting seen on the part ofJan Di’s family adds a campy feeling their scenes. Interesting side note: Park Ji Bin who plays Jan Di’s little brother, Kang San, plays the character of the same name in May Queen. (He plays the younger version of the lead.) Lee Min Ho played Goo Joon Pyo superbly, bringing out the vulnerable side of the arrogant young plutocrat in such a way that viewers could only hope for his success. Koo Hye Sun as Geum Jan Di was, in my opinion, one of the weaker points of the drama. Her character did not always come across as endearing enough to be the F4’s beloved little sister. Kim Bum was charismatic as the potter and ‘player’, So Yi Jung. KimSo Eun meshed well with him as well as with her best friend Jan Di as Cha Ga Eul. Kim Joon as Song Woo Bin was probably the most underused and underrated actor in the drama. His was a well-played character that could have been put to greater use. Joon Pyo’s big sis was fabulously portrayed by Kim HyunJoo.
And by the way, is there anything Yoon Ji Hoo cannot do? Horseback riding, cooking, playing violin, guitar, piano, singing, dancing, fighting, fishing, sailing, swimming (lifesaving), and cutting hair like a pro. Let’s not forget that he’s wealthy and has an impeccable family background. OMG. All that and a tender heart to boot. A more than perfect man wrapped up in a more than gorgeous package? A normal woman would have given up on the high road long before. Kim Hyun Joong was perfect for the role.
While overall the script is fun and well written, there are definitely parts that could easily have been left out. Take Macau, for example: It seems the writers decided they needed an excuse to spend a bit more time there so JiHoo’s ridiculous friend pops up out of nowhere just as they are about to depart and waylays them for a day. The potty tantrum and the one-sided bromance are incidents that added little or nothing to the overall charisma of the drama. The same goes for the memory-loss episode. Some time-fillers just don’t need to happen.
Cinematography: My rating 9/10
The cinematography is unparalleled in terms of locations. With filming in Seoul, New Caledonia, Waiheke Island (off the coast of New Zealand), Macau and Jeju Island, the settings alone are stunning eye-candy. Much effort was put into making this drama appealing visually and the efforts definitely paid off. Although the video quality in the following clip is not spectacular, it gives you a good idea of some of the great filming locations used:
Music: My rating 8/10
The music is a varied selection of ballads and pop tunes. All are widely available on YouTube, iTunes and your local Asian market.
- Fight The Bad Feeling – T-MAX http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Az7a2BJ9Dw
- Paradise – T-Max http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nGK1P5tUfh0
- Because I’m Stupid – SS501 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sqCGSMIc1kQ
- Do You Know – Someday http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xJOyUWQLo60
- Stand By Me – SHINee (The song by which the drama is known!) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mTfUez4DJi0
- Lucky – Ashily http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dwCcCs9tojc
- Starlight Tears – Kim Yoo Kyung (So sad…) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9belubNr22c
- One More Time – Tree Bicycles http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qg3h46AeyPw
- Also notable is “I Know” (Saxophone Instrumental) by Lee Jung Sik – a Kenny G-ish composition that has girls swooning in nightclubs when Kim Bum pretends to play. 😉 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zWkm-lRqff4
- And of course: My Everything – Lee Min Ho http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dYifT-fCqxI
There are actually 3 separately released track lists with a myriad of songs available. The above are the most widely known and the most used throughout the drama.
Overall Charisma: My rating 9/10
So despite the criticisms, I give this drama high marks in overall charisma. Why? It’s fun. It’s charming. The actors are worth watching. The music is evocative. ? I’ve seen it myself 4 or 5 times now. (Omo – should I really admit that?)
As a woman, both the Joon Pyo and Ji Hoo characters are deeply etched in my psyche. While Joon Pyo is infinitely attractive, what woman doesn’t ache for Ji Hoo and his forlorn love? For that matter, what woman doesn’t yearn for a Ji Hoo in her life? Sorry guys, those boys have set the bar really, really, really unapproachably, unrealistically, fancifully, castle-in-the-sky high! LOL But that’s why it’s fiction, right?