Shin Mina is Hae-ju, a blind girl who plays the piano at a nightclub. Ryu Seung-beom is Dong-gun, a voice actor who is usually given the role of a monster since he’s so good at roaring.
In The Beast and the Beauty (2005), they first meet when Hae-ju is waiting for a cab after her work and kindly Dong-gun happens to drive by. She thinks he is a cab driver and he thinks she is the sweetest thing that ever walked on earth. Every protective cell in him springs into manly action and thereafter he is at the nightclub every night, waiting to send her home. After a while the two fall in love (how can she not be moved by his attentiveness and gentleness?) and all is roses and sunshine in the couple’s world. Until one day when Hae-ju tells Dong-gun that she is going to have an operation that will restore her sight.
That announcement turns Dong-gun’s world upside down. Instead of whooping for joy that his beloved will soon be able to see, he is chewing his nails.
The problem, you see, is that our (voice) actor has not been exactly upfront with his girlfriend. Asked to describe himself, he paints a description of the first guy that pops into his head: that snooty Joon-ha (Kim Kang-woo) in high school who made all the girls swoon because he was so good-looking. Since Hae-ju can’t see, she wouldn’t know that Dong-gun looks nothing like Joon-ha. Why burst her bubble and tell her that he has a conspicuous facial scar around his eyebrow? And that he has a face only a mother would love? (At least that’s how humble Dong-gun erroneously sees himself.)
But the inevitable cannot be wished away and the day finally comes when Hae-ju will be able to see what Dong-gun looks like. Her surgery is successful and she and her family wait expectantly in her hospital room for Dong-gun.
Dong-gun decides that their love is built on more than appearances and it’s time to be honest with Hae-ju. Prepping himself with “Be brave, Dong-gun!” talk and arming himself with flowers, he arrives at the hospital only to be greeted with shrieks of horror. (Apparently one eyebrow scar can cause hysteria, which is all rather silly and exaggerated, if you ask me.) Their screaming startles Dong-gun so much every ounce of confidence flees from him and he lies that he is Dong-gun’s friend and that Dong-gun is away in Hawaii for a work assignment.
That fib buys Dong-gun some time for drastic action. He goes to a cosmetic surgeon and asks to have his face completely altered. But there’s a limit to what the knife can do (an adage that some cosmetic surgery-crazed people fail to grasp) and in the end they settle for just removing the eyebrow scar. Alas, our surgeon is too scalpel-happy and Dong-gun is left with more (or less?) than what he came for.
Increasingly concerned that Dong-gun is gone for far too long (shouldn’t he be rushing to be by her side and celebrating her newfound sight with her?), Hae-ju decides she’s had enough of waiting and goes to Dong-gun’s house. Even though she sees him (poor guy has no idea she’s coming), she does not recognize his voice. (Remember he’s a voice actor?) So when he says he’s Dong-gun’s friend, she believes.
Frantically hoping for nature to reverse what the surgeon did to him, Dong-gun meets an unexpected obstacle when Joon-ha appears on the scene (yes, that same Joon-ha from high school)… and is mistaken by Hae-ju to be Dong-gun. Uh oh…
How long can Dong-gun keep up the pretense? How will he beat off Joon-ha, now just as smitten with Hae-ju? Our voice actor may work with imaginary monsters, but Joon-ha’s underlings are as real as the plastic surgeon’s blotched handiwork that Dong-gun is now sporting. More importantly, can Hae-ju forgive him when she learns the truth?
I’m a Ryu Seung-beom collector, meaning I’ll watch anything he’s in, and this is one role that I enjoyed immensely. Tops when it comes to acting versatility, he is a hoot in this comedy as the “beast.”
(His face has character and you can write a thousand stories with it, which is something makeup or perfectly chiseled features can’t do, most of the time.)
On the surface it may seem the movie is taking advantage of Ryu Seung-beom’s unconventional looks (for sure he’s no Daniel Henney, although I’ll take RSB anytime, thank you), playing on the stereotype that handsome attracts and ugly repels. So let’s have our lead looking as unattractive as possible, which is not hard for Ryu Seung-beom to do. And have him fall in love with a beauty (which Shin Mina is, of course) in a pairing that deliberately highlights how incompatible (appearance-wise) they are. But what makes the movie worth watching (besides Ryu Seung-beom’s awesomeness and his wonderful chemistry with Shin Mina) is how Hae-ju does not follow society’s “script” and play to type. She didn’t fall in love with Dong-gun for his looks, a fact he must learn… and accept.
Through a series of missteps, Dong-gun “grows” into this acceptance of himself. In the process we are treated to a Ryu Seung-beom who just shines. The role is non-demanding (compared to his more heavyweight roles) and is not going to win him an acting award. But he’s so funny as Dong-gun. As for Shin Mina, I have yet to see her in a breakout performance (she’s the same sweet and feisty character here as she was in Madeleine), but she’s very enjoyable to watch, even if her wailing in one scene threatens to shatter glass.
If you appreciate good acting and enjoy romantic comedies, and if you want something lighthearted to pass the evening but which won’t make you gag with its slapstick shenanigans and toilet humor, check out The Beast and the Beauty. You also want to know who wins the beauty in this movie, don’t you?