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Thursday, July 18, 2013

Gentleman’s Dignity (2012)

Gentleman’s Dignity
신사의 품격
(May – Aug 2012)

who’s in it
Jang DongGun (All About Eve, The Warrior’s Way-film)
Kim HaNeul (On Air, Secret, Stained Glass)
Kim SooRo (God of Study)
Kim MinJong (The Return of Iljimae)
Lee JongHyuk (Chuno)
Yoon SeAh (You’re So Pretty)
Kim JungNan (Creating Destiny, Bridal Mask)
Kim WooBin (Vampire Idol, School 2013)
Yoon JinYi

Lee JongHyun (idol group CNBlue - member)
Ahn JaeMin

what’s it about
Okay everybody, so this is the sequel to Boys Over Flowers and it explores the “what if” scenario of F4 all grown up and leading life as semi-responsible career-minded adults. JunPyo grows up to become an architect, JiHoo is his partner at a property development firm, YiJung’s a successful corporate lawyer, and WooBin totally marries rich.

Ha.
Ok, this is not true.

(What? You haven’t seen Boys Over Flowers and don’t get the inside? I’m telling you this as a concerned drama-watching friend, to be in this kdrama world, there are a few shows that are required homework. Unfortunately—yes I do mean unfortunately—BOF is one of them. Sorry, it’s a rite of passage. Go endure it, then come back.)

In all seriousness, this is the tale of four men—Jang DongGun (architect), Kim SooRo (construction tradesman), Kim MinJong (lawyer), and Lee JongHyuk (sexy beast)—who insist on living their lives as if still at a school playground even when they are climbing into their forties. As a collective group of handsome and monied, no one’s told them forcefully enough that “juvenile” is not a synonym for “aegyo” and that this particular type of youthful wear does not fly with real women.

Therefore when they actually encounter a few of these real women, it’s not so easy for them to adjust. This is where Kim HaNeul (highschool teacher), Yoon SeAh (pro golfer), Yoon JinYi (flirty young person), and Kim JungNan (awesome rich bitch) come in. They are the poor ladies that some cruel deity has decided should love these man-children.

Also, Kim WooBin and CN Blue idol Lee JongHyun add some younger pretty to the cast, giving a little something for the pigtailed fangirls, too.

As for a plot, there really isn’t one. This is all about four men clashing with four women and the fun all that should entail. Obviously saying a show has no plot doesn’t really sound like a positive thing, but this may be one of the rare exceptions.
 
commitment 
20 episodes

network
SBS

director
Kwon HyeokChan (Secret Garden)
Shin WooCheol (Secret Garden, On Air)

screenwriter
Kim EunSook (Secret Garden, On Air)
And it really does feel like Secret Garden mated with On Air.


first impressions
Without a doubt, Jang DongGun is a tall glass of handsome. This is a man that looks his part, a seasoned hottie who’s worked in the K-biz a long time, and he oozes confidence and sophistication. You can almost see him doing the Korean version of a Dos Equis commercial—“Well, hello, I am Jang DongGun, and I am the most handsomest man in South Korea.” He has a style that simply teases, “I’ve been there, done that, and that, and that too, and it makes me all kinds of panther sexy.” It’s hard to argue with his body language…when his body looks like Jang DongGun.

Next up, for his female lead, we have Kim HaNeul. Everything I said about Jang, just repeat it for her, but substitute panther with cheetara.

So for these two mega stars to team up on the small screen…let’s just say kfans around the world stopped breathing for a just a wee sec. The only thing that might have surprised more was if suddenly news rained down that Kim SunAh was going to reunite with Hyun Bin (please, please, please let that happen one day, I beg the universe!). That’s the kind of epic this pairing was, in case you weren’t aware.

And then we had this total anomaly of a character played with pure delight by Mr. Lee JongHyuk, and he defied every definition of what a sane woman should find appealing. I have so much hearts-in-eyes for him and so little words to convey it properly. He was the most lovable jerk I’d ever encountered. The last thing I remember seeing Lee in was Chuno, all historical and chasing after Jang Hyuk. I do believe I prefer the contemporary sexy on him. I have a new appreciation for starched white shirts and pants. 

Last but not least, Kim WooBin had a smallish part in here; this was one of his earlier roles. If ever there was the next generation of Jang DongGun, this might be the guy—like quite literally, Kim having recently been picked to play Jang DongGun’s son in the sequel to 2001’s film Friend. My only complaint with the casting...why didn’t he just play Jang’s son in this show, too?

wildcard factor
This one was a gender war between the cast...and about the delicious taste that happens when opposites attract, when sweet and salty flavor a summer. If you fall for any of the four main courtships, you will probably enjoy it.

Jang DongGun & Kim HaNeul
Veteran Rebellious Hot + Veteran RomCom Goddess


Kim SooRo & Yoon SeAh
Funny Macho Man + Funny Sassy Woman


Lee JongHyuk & Kim JungNan
Lovable Dumb Jerk + Heart-of-Gold Rich Bitch


Kim MinJong & Yoon JinYi
Older Lawyer Guy + Younger Bubbly Girl
Also see below what didn’t work

gave up

snoozer moments
I admit it, I did take a teeny break midway through this one. I’m human, I burn out on dramas like everyone else, even during the watching of ones I like.

The main criticism about this one was regarding the general appeal of the main men and their frequent forays into man-child territory (something writer Kim EunSook’s leading men are oft inclined to do). Since there is little plot, obviously how much one likes the characters becomes a critical factor. Some felt the characters were mildly annoying, others accused that everybody grated more and more on the nerves as the show continued. 인정! I acknowledge. *nodding* Sure, watching 20 episodes of man-children being juvenile and throwing out plotless bombs of aegyo all over the place may not always be a body’s first choice in kdrama content. Can’t argue with that, can I? I got burned out on all the silly antics as well, hence the break.

Well, a time out during the watching of a show can be a good or bad thing, but when I came back to Gentleman for the second sit down to finish it, I still liked it, and thought that overall, it was a great time. Everyone was lovable, the story wrapped up well, and all in all, it was a pretty well-managed show and felt damn respectable.

soju guzzling (angst factor)
On a scale of 1-10, this was about a -5 on the melodrama. It did try for some birth secret angsting somewhere in the middle, but even that was fluffy stuff that hardly amounted to any real tension.

what didn’t work
Oh man, Kim MinJong and Yoon JinYi, the biggest Age Gap Couple in the show, was a total cringe-fest for me. I didn’t like seeing them together and thought their flirtation was kind of creepy. I don’t know what the character age discrepancy was supposed to be in precise math, but I imagine it was at least 15 years, as in real life, the actors are 19 years apart. That’s nearly two decades. I mean, back in 2000, Yoon was a 10 year old moppet when Kim was a fully grown 29 year old man starring in Secret with Kim HaNeul. Let’s think on that for a second. I don’t wanna judge, and yeah, yeah, age doesn’t really matter in the affairs of love, I suppose, but the two also had little in common as characters. Their connection was a painful elastic age stretch.

And, sorry CN Blue fans, I didn’t love Lee JongHyun’s character all that much either. Partly because the show really didn’t know how to integrate his lost-father drama into the comedy landscape, but also partly because he was so green as an actor. So sadly he became the least interesting part of the show. He felt like a side thought manipulated to tease a possible loveline with Yoon JinYi (which, actually, might have worked out better for both Yoon and Lee’s characters), but little interest was put in that storyline by the writer and only ended up feeling like a random way to do an unconvincing fake out with the Age Gap Couple. When that and the birth secret part of the story was done, he then felt like an excuse to pull Kim WooBin’s character more into the mix with the main adult cast. The idol seemed appealing enough, but perhaps this was not the best debut idea for Lee. He was cast in a show that almost guaranteed him being swallowed up and chewed out by an entire mob of veterans plus a Kim WooBin. Tough task.

I can see the logic behind the move, a new face joining a cast of established talents with hopes that their good mojo would rub off. It did work for Lee JongSuk in the other big Kim EunSook drama Secret Garden; Lee being surrounded by so much star power immediately elevated his name by association, but well, that was Lee JongSuk, and the singer songwriter character he played was a far more enigmatic role to chew on for a rookie.

what did
The story parallel between the older boys and the younger boys.
I dug the cute backstory as to how four very different young men became bosom buddies…and grew up to become the four crazy gentleman of dignity. In flashbacks, we learned that the quad of man-children had initially been antagonists due to their vast personality differences. But in the end, it was those differences that ended up being the glue that made them stick the best together, balancing their individual quirks and weaknesses.
In episode 19, when Jang DongGun learned that Lee JongHyun had befriended the troublemaker Kim WooBin, he sighed, “Don’t you know how hard my life has been because I met the wrong friends in your uncles?” Through this nicely done synchronizing of the male bonding process between generations, we knew the young’uns were destined for the same kind of heartwarming, superglue, headache-inducing forever type of friendship Jang DongGun found himself ‘cursed’ with, to his happy remorse.

Also, I can’t imagine what kind of poor girls will have to contend with these four future man-children. I smell sequel! Kidding.

notable scene(s)
There were many scenes I really enjoyed, and call me a WooBin fangirl, but two of my fave moments featured him:

1) Episode 15
Kim JungNan Adopts A Nephew
Adorable punk Kim WooBin gets into a bit of a scuffle with a Rich Kid (who will later become a part of his foursome), which had the kid’s Rich Mama running down to school and completely inappropriately slapping Kim around. As Kim’s homeroom teacher, Kim HaNeul drags her student to Rich Mama’s fancy Cheongdam-dong residence to apologize, but also Kim HaNeul wants the Rich Mama to apologize for hitting her favorite student who she has kind of adopted like a stray puppy. And because, really, hitting children simply is not acceptable, even if they are taller than you.

Of course, Rich Mama sneers that she won’t apologize, how dare poor people waste her precious time when all she did was hit something worthless that deserved to be hit. Thankfully, they bump into Kim JungNan, who also lives at this elite residential community. JungNan owes HaNeul a favor, and so my favorite Rich Bitch sizes up the situation, casually adopts the troublesome teen as her very own nephew, and being as she’s the biggest badass in Gangnam, puts the Rich Mama in her place. HaNeul and WooBin witness firsthand the mastery of their unexpected savior’s cold sneering condescension.

2) Episode 19
Jang DongGun Slaps A Jerk Father
I guess I just like it when bad adults get smacked, both figuratively and literally. In this scene, the trio of friends, lead by Kim WooBin, catch eye on their very own Rich Kid (mentioned above) getting bullied by some hooligans wearing the uniform of a rival school. Despite Lee JongHyun’s objections, his new pals mosey on over to get involved. With a defeated sigh, already friend-glued Lee JongHyun follows into the melee. This is the oldest loyalty rule in the book, it wouldn’t be right to let friends get beat up alone.

Later, Jang DongGun gets called to the police station. When a jerk father smacks Kim WooBin for daring to bloody his son, Jang DongGun is understandably offended, and finds the behavior simply too appalling to ignore. So in a moment of pure parental awesome, he goes over and smacks the abusive father upside the head. The boys all stare in shock. The sputtering father is beyond surprised, and exclaims in amazement, “Who are you!?” Jang retorts, “I’m the father of the kid whose friend you just hit!” He points out that if the jerk’s son is so precious to him, then he should respect that someone else’s son is equally precious!
Then, just when you think it isn’t possible for Jang to be any more awesome in this scene, the police ask exactly which kid he’s the guardian for, and Jang DongGun looks at Kim WooBin and Lee JongHyun, says firmly, “Both of them.” And this is despite having had a bad run in with Kim WooBin earlier in the series. Why the help? “Because I’m the adult,” he says simply in a moment of real-man heroism. It almost made me want to jump up and hug the handsome panther man. I always so love it when adults pop up in a kdrama and act like...caring human beings. Especially fathers, who tend to appear as selfish debt-ridden rabbits hopping from the law in most shows.

And since I adored this woman, I must and gotta sneak in a fave scene of hers, too:
3) Episode 8
My Husband Is A Sexy Beast While
Yours Are All Balding and Fat
To say that Kim JungNan feels mostly wronged by her hot playboy husband JongHyuk is an understatement. But being married to a younger stud does have its advantages, namely when one is dining with a bunch of catty peers and their fat, balding husbands. Kim is attending a “couples dinner” by herself and her “friends” take that as open season to shoot at all her insecurities. I love friends who smell blood in the water and go all shark, instead of dolphin...seriously, who needs enemies

Anyway, the women go on and on about how JungNan’s looks have really shriveled, in fact, they think she’s looking so bad lately that they’ve even been wondering if she’s secretly divorced. Basically, the women are delighted that it seems marrying hot and younger has been fail for JungNan. They also smugly insult the absent JongHyuk, snidely commenting that they totally understand why JungNan didn’t invite her child husband, after all, how could a boy keep up with mature men? 

Unable to stomach the abuse anymore, Kim JungNan surreptitiously texts Lee JongHyuk to get his ass to the restaurant immediately!

And if our boy Lee JongHyuk knows how to do anything well, he knows how to make people swoon! He struts in, causing everyone at the table, men and women both, gaping at his swag. When JungNan feigns surprise at his ‘sudden’ appearance, tsking that she didn’t tell him about the gathering of her friends because such things would be soooo boring for him, Lee responds that he saw her name on the restaurant placard outside and wanted to say a quick hello. He ends up joining the party and dotes on his wife so hardcore and so adoringly that all the women at the table shrivel up in jealous unhappiness like sunbaked little raisins. Take that, biatches!

what made me want to pull out my hair
what kept me going
Although it did require a mini break to finish it, the show had too much fun characters to leave unfinished forever. When I found some time, I definitely returned, and loved it.
______________________________
Other factors:
predictability Yes
cheese/engrish N/A
originality BOF-redo, but in Adult-Land, without Geum JanDi (thankfully)
eye-candy Absolutely, young and mature both
hair and fashion Good. Although I do want to mention the Samsung tablet-ish phones they were carrying around and advertising…holy crap they were big ass things and looked totally awkward. Oh, let me pull out my laptop-sized phone and put it to my ear! I don’t look silly at all!
______________________________
why you might like it
Jang DongGun = sexy panther
Kim HaNeul = cheetara grace
Kim JungNan = female empowerment
Lee JongHyuk = hot jerk
Kim WooBin = just plain smexy


why you might not
Plotless, aimless, mindless.

But when has such things ever stopped a kdrama fan from loving anything? Am I right? Or am I right? Nudge, nudge, wink, wink.

Admittedly, this was a show mostly designed as fan service for fans of the four older gentlemen. But that doesn’t mean there wasn’t something in there for the younger fangirls and fanboys. I did mention that the Woobster was in this one, didn’t I? And if you liked School 2013, you’ll love the angst-lite version of him, too.

a list:
The Five Grand Slams

5: Cameos of Amusing
See my 2012 Year End Review best cameo section for two of the funnier ones which featured CN Blue’s Jung YongHwa and Girls Generation’s SooYoung.

4: Yoon SeAh
Yoon played Kim HaNeul’s flashy and sassy female roommate, and macho Kim SooRo’s love interest. She was the sequined slink that matched Kim’s blunted brawn. Initially, I feared she was going to be a garden variety antagonist, you know, catty female character bent on making the lead girl’s life unhappy for no particular reason other than to be a biatch. Lucky for us, she didn’t stay trapped in that mold. We were able to see her develop into a character with a real heartbeat. She was a woman who played a gentleman’s club sport, her beauty and fame making her a larger-than-life personality of too much vanity warped with self-doubt, but the kind with normal jealousies that real woman might struggle through. Her spunk was a nice counterweight to Kim HaNeul’s straight as an arrow over-niceness.

3: Kim JungNan
This poor woman had to keep leash on a man like Lee JongHyuk, so she was very sympathetic. It helped that I could understand why she kept trying to tame him despite the man’s wildness. Sometimes the right wild stallion is worth fighting to keep. She was a tough nut, but the kind of nut that is not only tasty, but good for you—like an almond. Or maybe she was a pistachio (cus I love pistachios) and he was the hot toasted almond? In a pretty cool twist, her role wasn’t a Filler Bitch meant to aggravate, but provided a great deal of center for the other characters because unlike the rest of the people in this show, she really had her shit together. She knew right from wrong. Her only real problem was that she fell in love with a real rat, albeit a handsome toasted almond flavored rodent. I wasn’t the only one who loved Kim’s role. The actress basked in a lotta love for this part, enough to make her tear up in gratitude on national tv when she discussed all the fan support she received. It was all well-deserved.

2: Kim WooBin
What else needs to be said about Kim WooBin that hasn’t already been said in the kdrama fandom? I’m sure my betters have already written long poems, dedicated pages upon glorified pages describing his magnetic awesomeness. I am no an exception when it comes to adoring him. Save me a seat at the next fan meet! I’m completely in love with this kid. He’s amazing. Right now, in my fangirl happy place, I will probably watch anything and everything he stars in. He feels like the kind of talent that can save shows, you feel me? I think the last time I felt so excited about a rebel was Kang DongWon. That’s how much I’m feeling his charisma groove…I just compared Kim to Kang DongWon. That’s me impressed. While this show didn’t require any show-saving skills, it was still nice to have him on the billing.

1: Lee JongHyuk
His wife was awesome, and so was he! Hard to say who I loved more. Ok, you got me, I loved this handsome, almond toasted rat more, but just by a chinny chin hair. The only thing slightly better than ogling Kim WooBin in this show was getting to ogle Lee JongHyuk in gaping white shirts and tighter, whiter pants. He was funny, he was ridiculous, and he was a total brat cutie. Somebody help me, but I loved him so much. Turns out, not enough to sit through Cyrano Dating Agency, but still, a lot of love. *fist pump chest* And mad props for making this part work.

total enjoyment factor 
8/10

why this review is completely biased
This was a primetime drama that reeled like a sitcom, minus the length. If you love sitcoms but hate the overly long 100+ episode rambles, this will be right up your alley. Silly like a sitcom, but short and sweet in length. The show was chock full of cameos and ridiculous, indulged often in flashback cosplay, and pretty much exhausted all of its hours in flowery summerlike abandon, skipping through a cherry blossom park with an inane I’m-So-In-Love smile. Casted with lots of newsworthy names, both young and veteran, this show wanted the whole ensemble to shine. It really did feel sitcom-y, but in the best of ways.

Ah, perhaps I should also confess that I’m a huge Kim HaNeul fan, and it is by purposeful design that I spent so little time talking about her in this review. I just take for granted everyone already thinks she’s totally amazing and no words are needed defending the belief. Two of my favorite K-films are My Tutor Friend and Ditto, and they are stamped into my K-psyche as first lovesTo me, she’s a young Katharine Hepburn in the K-industry. Perhaps a grand comparison, for really, Katharine Hepburn was an original and no one could ever compare, but I liken her to the American screen icon because HaNeul has a similar feel about her. Granted, she wasn’t in any pantsuits in this one, but she did wear an umpire’s uniform. She was a girl who played alongside the big boys, and taught them a lesson or two. 

HaNeul’s a screen presence who does really well with the goofy, but has an inner elegance about her. She makes the case for intelligent women, that a gal fierce and single-minded should always be a staple on screen. She is the kind of smart lady men fall for against their will (also see her in On Air, she was so great in that one), but also the kind of actress other women admire and crush over. She’s a classic type of heroine.

verdict
All the characters acted like children, sure, but that’s what made it so much fun. 

What made it worth watching, however, was that the four men of Gentleman do get a grip on reality by the end and pass the man-child torch off to the younger generation.

I was in agreement with K-audiences on this one. A home run!

And finally...because every man in love inevitably behaves like a kid in a playground, especially the childlike men of Gentleman, here’s some Black Keys reminding men to “Tighten Up.”


src: theblackkeys

4 comments:

  1. Hee. I didn't love Gentleman as much as you did, but your review made me laugh and gave me food for thought on why this show might be better than I remember ;)

    And yes. I love Woobie and would watch ANYTHING he's in. Right now I'm watching White Christmas AND Vampire Idol. For Woobie, of course <3

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, I totally understand why a lot of people didn’t like Gentleman. Isn’t Vampire Idol so amusing? I really liked that silly little sitcom! SooHyuk and WooBin’s storylines were such fangirl-happy makers. I’ve heard good things about White Christmas but haven’t seen it yet...

      Delete
  2. woahh yes! kim woobin is real eye candy! yum!! XD

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. He really is the definition of delicious!!

      Delete

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