The Queen of Asian Drama is Back with more Irreverent Reviews and Snarky Commentary.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

A Gentleman's Dignity

신사의 품격 / Shinsa-ui Poomgyuk
2012 20-episode SBS Romantic Comedy Drama that starred Jang Dong gun as Kim Do jin, Kim Ha neul as Seo Yi soo, Kim Soo ro as Im Tae san, Kim Min jong as Choi Yoon, Lee Jong hyuk as Lee Jung rok, Yoon Se ah as Hong Se ra, Kim Jung nan as Park Min sook, Yoon Jin yi as Im Me ah ri, Lee Jong hyun as Collin, and Kim Woo bin as Kim Dong hyub. 

I watched this in its entirety back in late 2012 and instead of briefing it for this review, I ended up watching all 20 episodes again.

As of early 2014, I am well aware of the fact that stations in Korea permit 16 turning into 20 when the audience is there for the duration, and this comes as no surprise whatsoever. The fact that they felt the need to make a 'special' cements this notion in my mind.

Heck, that I wasn't reluctant to watch 20 full-length episodes twice tells me it was worth it!

And, boy, was it ever.

Stellar cast, top-notch acting, a great story line, and plenty of comedy peppered among all that drama makes this one of my favorites OF ALL TIME for a Korean drama. This is a difficult feat for them as I'm sure they and my readers are aware.

As I watched again, laughed again, fell in love again, and shed tears again, I thought about why it is I hold Korea to such high (or higher) standards than their Japanese, Taiwanese, and even Hollywood counterparts. Korea has the talent, the budget, and the know-how to pull off dramas of this caliber time and again, but they don't. I know, too, after years of watching these shows, that it is more about the writing (scripts) than anything else.

A Gentleman's Dignity was about four guys who met in high school, became best buds, and stayed that way through adulthood - until the story picks up in their 41st year of life. It's about four established gentlemen in some chapter of their current lives - rocky marriage, on-shaky-ground relationship, widow, playboy.

The beginning of each episode gives us a glimpse into their earlier years before we set off on their latest journey through the present. There is plenty of voice-over that explains what we need to know but its never too much or at inappropriate times. In other words: it's not annoying or unnecessary and helps add charm to an already charming tale.

All four gentlemen are just that, too. Gentlemen start to finish. They're not quite as idiotic, immature, and hyper as they were back in their youth yet still manage to hang on to a few adorable idiosyncratic mannerisms that lends itself to this charm.

The four who portray these gentlemen are four of the greatest actors to come along, too. Sure, there can be a handful of others that might fit that bill, but when it comes to on-screen chemistry that leads to spot-on performance, the casting director nailed it.

These guys were believable as best friends, lovers, passionate advocates, enthusiasts in one form or another, but most especially as their characters.

The women in their lives were just as believable, they fit perfectly with these guys, and they even worked well together whenever scenes included female/female or as a female group. No stereotypical BS here, thank you! These ladies walked tall, stood proud, and were quite comfortable in their independent states of being and would have survived with or without the men.

There would be no need to label this as a Romance, though, if the women weren't searching for or wanting something more. It isn't a crime to want love, to fall in love, or even to want to be loved. It becomes criminal when the script writer tries to make us believe that WITHOUT said love the human body has no reason to exist, or that WITHOUT a man a woman is nothing.

A Gentleman's Dignity didn't do that. It didn't smack us in the face with morality, chastity, and domineering familial values, either. Some of these people had family and parents, but they didn't take over the show and were only mentioned a few times - even appearing three times total - but that was it.

Besides these eight great performances, we were also blessed -doubly blessed- by the slightly frequent on-screen visits of two somewhat newbies (at that time) to the K-Do world: Kim Woo bin and Lee Jong hyun.

Before I go any further, I'd like to admit that when I see shows as great as this one, it makes me forgive the marketed inundation of K-Pop Sweetness and sugar-coated teen stuff. I will watch a few and not get sick to my stomach because of the high I'm still floating on after having watched something as memorable, deserving, and well-played as A Gentleman's Dignity.

And, even though I did give this 5 stars (cats with hearts - whatever) I did have a few complaints. But remember, my ratings are based on two things: how much did I like the story, and did I like it enough to want to see it again.
If I give a 5-star to anything, it's because of the latter more so than anything else. I already told you that I watched this clean through twice.

Aside from the mature content, adult theme, and great laugh-appeal, the down sides to this included one of the main characters:  Kim Ha neul as Seo Yi soo. I liked Ha neul very much, but I didn't care for or understand Yi soo a lot of the time. Well, I understood as much as I needed to, and I got that she grew up in a strange environment with a $$$ grubbing mother. I also understood her fear of having a significant anyone walk away at some point, too. I got all that. What I didn't get and didn't think fit in AT ALL with the rest of the characters was her teenage mentality about love/romance. Hers was the only character who wasn't playing by the rules and getting with the program. Virgin or not, she had been with men in her past, and even innocently, she was supposed to be a 35 year old Ethics teacher at an all-boys school. So what if it was Ethics that she taught, too. She wasn't acting worldly-wise, 35, mature. Not even for a minute. It threw me off every time she appeared on-screen.

My other gripe was one of the underlying theme songs that played sporadically throughout the 20 episodes. Everyday by Park Eun woo (박은우). Yeah, it was catchy and hummable, but she has a froggy croak inflection that grates on my nerves - lovely voice and a sweet song, but that croak has GOT to go, mianhae!

SPECIAL: Kim Sung oh had a bit part in this as well
(and NOT a cameo, because he appeared twice and had lines both times - cameo = walk-through, no lines. Bit part = brief appearance, lines)

This drama received a ton of awards and commendations, and the couple voted best was Kim Min jong and Yoon Jin yi. Not suprising, but it wasn't my choice. Min jong played the widow attorney at odds with his lonely heart because Jin yi's character was not only 17 years younger but the dongsaeng of one of his best buds. The one-sided relationship wrenched its way through 19 of the 20 episodes, too. She cried and cried and cried while he resisted, resisted, and resisted some more for the sake of the gang.

I could see, too, why young and cute Miss Jin yi ended up winning a lot of awards for her debut as well. She was cute without being gag cute.

Are her lips real, I wonder?

She effortlessly convinced me about how much she adored our long-suffering, meek brain Yoon-ii. It was easy to see what she saw in the man, too. 

There is NOTHING more sexy than a man who doesn't stand out in a crowd yet manages to allure unintentionally with his charms just by being who he is and not trying yet is completely alluring. It's insane how that works, but it does.
Imagine yourself in a situation where it's just you and Kim Min jong. You can tell just by looking that he's shy; likely terrified to make the first move, much less break the ice, so you take the initiative. Then once he's settled in and starts to unwind, a half hour has passed and you're talking, laughing, drinking some wine. Suddenly, he eyes you in a certain way or simply raises a finger of the hand holding that wine glass and for you, it's all over. He isn't able to get the next sentence out because you've accosted him at this point and kissed him without thinking, realizing it, or with permission.

THAT, ladies and gentlemen, is sex appeal, and Min jong has it - a ton.
(and for me, this is sometimes how the one-night-stand occurs ;-)

My personal favorite couple started out being Kim Soo ro and Yoon Se ah as the athletic, amorous, and fiercely competitive lovers who carried an on again off again relationship throughout the show. I thought those two had real chemistry. Se ah made it easy to believe she really loved the big bear while behaving aloof and unconcerned any time Soo ro put his big foot down or got upset about the way she behaved. It was quite realistic and I even identified with them on occasion (not myself but people I actually know).

Se ah's character, pro golfer Hong Se ra, was cute, too, but in a very sexy, mature way. Again, believable, like-able, and great acting. Her Se ra was the outward versus inward appearances type of character who behaves one way in public while harboring an opposite somewhere inside her that she doesn't want anyone to find out about.

Her lover, Kim Soo ro's Im Tae san could see both sides of Se ra and loved both equally. Tae san is the every-hyeung more so than everybody's favorite Oppa. Soo ro's performance was great in that he was supposed to be hyper, overly masculine, and a foul-mouthed threatening force yet it was never over played, out-of-sync, or grew tiresome. Oh! And, he was chivalrous without making it look old-fashioned or sexist, too. I can just imagine how many ladies who watched were thinking: Oh, my! and Yes, please! Me, too! (even the hardest hard-core feminazi's, I'll bet!)

It was what Se ra adored most about him.

But then I was suddenly leaning more toward Lee Jong hyuk's Lee Jung rok - the goofball player married to the older yet still beautiful Park Min sook (Kim Jung nan). Theirs was a hilarious yet still believable and probably the most realistic relationship of the four couples. Min sook was born wealthy and owned over half of Gangnam, and she was too smart for her own good, always catching Jung rok every time he stepped out. 

Jong hyuk's character provided a majority of the laughter, too, but I think more times than not the laughter stemmed from the beginning vignettes of the four men at some stage of their former lives, and any time they got together inside the episodes. They all worked well together, and I could imagine with ease their wanting to hang out after hours drinking - even today, two years after the fact.

I remember, too, after watching this show the first time, how unnerved it made me to see him in modern-day appearance after having drooled over him in Chuno.

Either way, of course, he's not half bad, eh? Still, going from one extreme to the other for me is always quite jarring and unexpected. Takes me time to adjust.

Anyway, it was near the end of this great drama that these two ended up on a nightclub dance floor, and while Oppa Gangnam Style blared, he put buds in his ex-wife's ears as well as his own, and they danced to the Korean version of Macarena.

Sweet stuff.

All four gents were stylish, too. Well, not Tae san. He was a jeans & t-shirts kind of guy, but then he was supposed to be, yet when the occasion arose for him to have to get dressed up, he looked just as smart as his buds in a tux or a suit. I imagine Soo ro had to go on a diet and work out for this part. More kudos to him for going that extra mile.

The leads - Jang Dong gun's Kim Do jin, and Kim Ha neul's Seo Yi soo - were good together. There was chemistry there, and a few times I actually got this whoa feeling that made me wonder if they might not be ahem (you know) outside the production studio (giggle). It seemed to me at times like they really, not acting, liked one another. This is yet another sign of great acting, too.

As I mentioned earlier, though, Yi soo behaved too innocent and girly for my taste. Do jin was all man and made no bones about it right from the start. 41 doesn't play 21 anymore, but then neither should 35 play 16 as far as I'm concerned. He was a thousand times more realistic and believable; he pulled off the character acting with precision and grace, and despite his flaws, was lovable and interesting straight through the 20 episodes.

Speaking of great acting - THIS, people, is a kiss

If I did those Youtube moments videos that rated things liked in these dramas, then this kiss would definitely fall in the 1-3 range of a top-10 category for best freakin' lip lock in a Korean drama.

I mean, LOOK at them! They're actually touching for one thing, he needed to press his hand against the window to steady himself for another, their lips are actually making contact, and both have their eyes closed.

Yes! Sex sells with me, and this is what I want to see more of from Korean actors!

If the sign says ROMANCE, then dang it, that's what I expect to see when I walk in!

In reality, he and his real wife haven't done anything since this aired. I have to wonder why?

Anyway, Dong gun's 41 is sexy as hell, and even his rakish Do jin managed to capture my heart and scene steal all 20 episodes. I would DEFINITELY like to see more of this guy. I'm always looking out for things like this when I watch something I really like (sometimes even when I'm not that interested but clinging due to the fact I'm more interested in the actors than the story). The lead isn't technically as fine as a bit player, so can or will his character succeed in outshining that person in a scene? When that happens and he does keep my interest, then I'm totally enthralled by him. He wins.

Some of his lines, some of his gestures, and some of his actions ladies ... whew! Fan your face and bat them lashes, cause he's got the moves. What we wouldn't give to hear our significant other say some of that stuff to us, eh?

Epitome of the Smooth Operator although he wasn't much of an operator after he met the girl and fell in love. Then he just used those techniques on her, and it worked. It dazzled, actually. A guy who can make you swoon, in other words.
I couldn't stop myself from capturing a ton of images for this one. It takes some doing, but I managed to save the best for this blog.

I'll start with words of wisdom ...


The sublime

the funny

what does money bitching mean?

is this Kool-aid, or do they drink Hpnotic from a straw over there?

um, guess who he's talking to??


hate, abhor, detest this type of a kissing scene, and it shows why I didn't like her for this part

and the yeppeun


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