Standing in the middle of the store. Whining under my breath: “It’s always here when I don’t want it, but right when I need it, it’s nowhere to be found!”
Was it only last week? When City Hunter knocked my socks off and left a gigantic humble pie at my feet. So this is what an out-of-body experience must feel like, when I’m driving and all of a sudden I blush, the fifth time that day, as I ponder how very surreal this whole thing feels.
I’m in love with an Lee Min-ho drama (that’s still airing). I’m googling him. I’m making up for lost time. I’m about to cry because I can’t find Boys Over Flowers.
This post is about my journey into a universe so otherworldly I feel like an alien with two heads. My mission is simple: to validate my newfound Lee Min-ho appreciation. I will start with Personal Taste (because I had downloaded all sixteen episodes last year) and end with Boys Over Flowers (which I eventually find in the store, eyes glinting).
As if egging me on, even though she was unaware of my plans, blue penguin (a TP reader) surprised me with a folder of Lee Min-ho pics. My very first set of LMH pics that aren’t City Hunter screencaps.
On that same day I found a series of articles on Lee Min-ho’s childhood, told in the first person by his mom. I was mesmerized by the stories she shared, and dumbstruck by these absolutely adorable baby pics that she unveiled:
Now that I’ve gotten a glimpse of the guy beyond his City Hunter role, the desire to watch more of him intensified. I must hurry!
So I sat down to watch Personal Taste. Within the first ten minutes I wanted to hurl. At the end of that excruciating sixty minutes, I went on Twitter and grumbled like one who was just served leftovers at an overpriced restaurant. What a terrible opening episode. Hands down one of the worst I had ever seen.
That was Saturday. By Monday I had watched 2.5 more episodes and wanted to keep going. What stopped me was my self-imposed deadline for this post, to get it published before Episode 17 of City Hunter aired. I remembered I still had Boys Over Flowers to watch.
What caused that swift about-turn? An image (among several) that I found while looking for Personal Taste posters. Be still, my heart!
Lee Min-ho’s Jeon Jin-ho in glasses. Not in Episode 1. So quitting was now out of the question. I had to keep going, of course.
Why was the first episode so unpalatable? It wasn’t Lee Min-ho. On the contrary I finished it because of him, and him alone. Like he has done in every episode of City Hunter, he commands the screen with his sheer presence and physical beauty (that height; that near-perfect face). It’s impossible to look away.
On the other hand…
These two made me want to poke my eyes out. I wanted to throw things. I wanted to scream.
Seriously, what’s with that frightful hair, Kim Ji-seok? It’s rekindling memories that I want to bury forever, where the sight of you (and your “unforgettable” acting) was enough to make crows drop dead from trees and sundry other places.
And what’s with the overacting, Son Ye-jin? You look like a newbie actress whose every expression is magnified tenfold so that everyone knows that YOU. ARE. ACTING. You stand with your legs splayed wide, like some duck. You walk with your shoulders curled in, so that from the back it’s as if you’re wearing a tortoise shell. You show every tooth in your mouth when you grin; you scrunch every muscle in your face when you wail. Your Park Kae-in is not only writ larger than life so that she comes across as a cartoonish caricature, she is an insult to women because of how dimwitted and desperate she is when it comes to affairs of the heart.
Thanks, Show, for hammering home the point that Kae-in isn’t the brightest bulb around. Yes, we get that she hasn’t the faintest of inklings that she’s getting two-timed by her sorry excuse of a boyfriend. With her friend, the one who lives with her!
But did you have to give us Most Distasteful Wedding Ever? That sort of cheap melodrama where every player involved comes off looking stupid and needy.
But as I’ve learned since last week, daily servings of a certain (humble but oh so delectable!) pie means that the old rules no longer apply. Forget lousy writing and shrill setups; Lee Min-ho makes the mediocre bearable. What a relief that his Jin-ho isn’t highly strung like Kae-in, although he did blow his top when she pawed his bums and ruined his 3-D architectural mock-up on the bus.
So I stay the course, keeping a sharp eye out for two particular scenes captured in these images that I had found while poking around the Internet:
The second image takes my breath away. I can’t get over how good-looking the guy is. I can’t get over how blind I was the last two and the half years.
But in an industry where good looks are a dime a dozen, the important question remains: Can he act? Of course I had found my answer in City Hunter last week (when I finished sixteen episodes in six days). But what I wanted to find out on this new journey was whether he was as charismatic in his previous outings. Why was there so much ado about him in 2009? Did he live up to the hype the following year, in Personal Taste?
I don’t know if Lee Min-ho improved in Personal Taste because as I write this I have not watched Boys Over Flowers yet. (I’m writing down my PT thoughts first before they get all mixed up with my BOF review. I’m also afraid that I might get so turned off by THAT HAIR in BOF that I get brain freeze.) The truth is that I’m bringing spillover good will from City Hunter into Personal Taste, loads of it. That doesn’t mean that I’m watching him with an amoeba’s discernment, though. I’ll be very disappointed in myself if I cut Jeon Jin-ho a lot of slack just because I’m smitten with Lee Yoon-sung. (Oh, get off your high horse, Thundie So Contrary; we’re not dumb like Kae-in.)
Thankfully, I like Jin-ho and Lee Min-ho’s assured and charming portrayal of him, his eyes as expressive here as they are in City Hunter. I like that our architect has a good heart and also possesses a certain gravitas; it’s such a welcome change from Kae-in’s buffoon-like character.
That’s right, Jin-ho, grit your teeth and hang in there, like what I’m doing. Even if that crazy woman greets visitors at the door with morning breath, flings her underwear everywhere, and yells to a roomful of people that you’re gay.
You’re not, of course.
Because he needs to study her house in order to understand the kind of design that would score for him a lucrative project, Jin-ho moves in and becomes her lodger, under the pretext of needing a place to stay. On her part, the rental income alleviates some of her financial woes; as a bonus she gets to paw him everywhere.
The setup, after we’re done raging in envy, is actually quite funny to watch; I admit I laughed out loud several times. For all its unevenness, there are moments in the drama that hit all the right notes and make me forget how much I disliked the opening episode. Take, for example, the piggyback scene in Episode 3 where Kae-in is semi-passed out and with an injured ankle to boot. This is after she has announced his supposed sexual preference to the world. Seeing her immobile state, the hapless Jin-ho has no choice but to carry her on his back and he does so rather grumpily.
And so the two set forth on the road home, swaying and staggering, lurching comically in all directions. She looks like she might fall off but manages to hang on and eventually he walks steadily, she yakking away, he listening quietly. A silly scene has become a scene that’s rather sweet to behold.
Somehow I have a feeling that Personal Taste is going to be like that piggyback ride, ungainly at first but finding its footing after a while. It’s too soon to tell because I’m skipping scenes as I watch (mostly scumbag ex-boyfriend and his dad and wife) and I’m not invested in any of the characters at this stage except Jin-ho.
But I know I like Episodes 2-3 (and half of Episode 4) much more than Episode 1. I know I want to keep watching, at least until the bespectacled resident HOT appears.
Okay, Personal Taste in the bag, now for Boys Over Flowers. Anyone wants the box set, in mint condition and with excellent English subtitles? Said set’s owner watched just one episode (which felt like an eternity to her) and has no plans to watch the remaining twenty-four, never mind that she had found the set after some difficulty, it being shelved under a more superior drama called Coffee Prince.
To think I went into this looking for MH (Min-ho) and got a lifetime’s worth of HM (Her Mouth) instead.
That mouth is just begging for someone to stick a pacifier into it, don’t you think?
In fact, for the first nineteen minutes and fifty seconds, I was fixated on that mouth. That mouth overshadows everything: the grandeur of the Shinhwa High campus, the utter superficiality of its students, the spectacle of the suicidal boy with the blood-streaked face. That mouth inspires “poetry” from people who have no business writing poetry, much less a haiku:
Oh, have you seen such
Agility in a mouth
Who else but Jan-di!
Poor Gu Jun-pyo. When he finally makes his appearance at 19 minutes and 51 seconds into the episode (what took you so long?!), stepping off a helicopter onto grass that has obviously been readied specially for His Highness to step on, his (much-dreaded) hairdo registered not a blip on yours truly. Nothing, absolutely nothing can be a match for Geum Jan-di’s mouth. In fact, never in the history of kdrama has an oral orifice
overacted exerted itself to this extent. I think I’m scarred for life.
But Gu Hye-sun does not have a monopoly on the overacting. Going head to head (or is it mouth to mouth?) with her are the three resident airheads. When, at 26 minutes into the episode, the third airhead introduced herself tremulously as “Miranda,” the lizards in my room dropped their dinner in fright and abruptly sprouted hair that stood on end. Me? I hailed a cab and took off.
Sure, this is just a drama, but I don’t remember watching anything that dumbs down schooling so much. We get our first glimpse of a classroom only after 50 minutes. There is no teacher in sight the entire episode, not when an injured boy is about to leap off a building, not when Jan-di is getting pelted with eggs and flour, not when all manner of garbage has been dumped into the indoor swimming pool, and not when Jun-pyo strides into school wearing a dead raccoon around his neck.
What in the world is going on, Shinhwa High?
But nothing takes the cake in the disgust factor like Jun-pyo decorating a fellow student’s face with the cake that she baked for him.
I can’t watch anymore, I can’t. Maybe if I had followed the drama as it was airing, I might have caught the Lee Min-ho fever like everyone else. That’s a long shot, though. His Jun-pyo character is so unlikable I doubt I would have stuck around to see how he would eventually redeem himself. Compare him with two other 2009 male lead roles: Hwang Tae-kyung (You’re Beautiful) and Hwan (Brilliant Legacy). Tae-kyung matches Jun-pyo sneer for sneer, but he’s never mean; he would never mastermind bullying that could lead to death. Hwan matches Jun-pyo strand for strand in the bad-hair department, but he would never ask a girl to lick his shoes.
Fortunately, there is karma. Fortunately, there is our spunky Jan-di. (And apparently it takes a sweet dessert to get her mouth to stop performing those chill-inducing gymnastics.)
Oh dear, Jun-pyo. Nothing like ice cream to highlight your perfect features, no? For a sec there I even felt sorry for you. Here, wipe your face with my limited-edition hanky. Embroidered in France one gold thread at a time.
I must confess, though. Much as I disliked asshole Gu Jun-pyo, I could feel my resolve weakening the longer I watched…
Hmm, maybe I might keep those DVDs after all. For a day in the distant future when my eyes can no longer see clearly and I can’t cringe at the overacting and the underacting that’s being dished out in spades. (Of course you’re not guilty of any deficiency, Lee Min-ho. Even in the little screen time you had, you exuded an aura that proclaimed: “Watch out, world.”)
But for now I’m done with Boys Over Flowers. I don’t want the drama marring my heart-fluttery recollections of sweet Kim Bum in The Woman Who Still Wants to Marry. He’s such a non-entity in the first episode it makes me want to cry. All he does is stand… and smile!
That smile can make trees flower and stop a lizard dead in its tracks, a juicy fly be damned.
Conversely… trees die and lizards swear off all insects when a vision of loveliness comes clothed thusly:
That’s too much, really. So, although it has been fun and eye-opening, I’m getting off this journey (into the past) pronto and resuming life as I like it, with my City Hunter.
Oops, OUR City Hunter. (I may be late to the party but even I know the consequences of riling millions of Minoz. Heh.)