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I am currently watching KBS2’s Cinderella Unni or Cinderella’s Sister. Out of all the fairytales out there, Cinderella is my favorite one, and any version of that is worth a watch. This is the first time that I am watching a Korean version of Cinderella, and I am liking it. I like how the drama is reinventing certain aspects of the story, but keeping others the same. While I believe that this drama might not be a keeper (having watched about ½ of it), I am enjoying going on this journey with the characters of this Cinderella tale.
In this story we have the evil stepmother (Song Kang Sook), the father (Goo Dae Sung), the good Cinderella (Hyo Sun), the evil stepsister (Eun Jo) and prince charming (Ki Hoon), but instead of all of them being all black or white, we have shades of gray in every character. That is what makes this story worth watching, even if the drama has the tendency to become too melodramatic at moments.
Moon Geun Young plays the evil stepsister, Eun Jo. She has become cynical and world weary after watching her mother manipulate, use, and then leave men over the years. She believes that a smile is used only to get something in return. She sees all men as bad, men who are alcoholics, who abuse women, and who only want one thing from her mother. Eun Jo doesn’t see any good in the world, and it is hard for her to soften up to anyone. When she softens up to a man she likes, he leaves her without a word. She cannot make herself say the word father to a man who has taken care of her for eight years. She is intelligent, works hard, and wants to use that intelligence to repay that man, but she cannot say the words that he wants to hear. She is socially awkward, and can be acerbic in attitude, but she has warm feelings. She can love. It is just that she can’t express that love. And then her stepfather dies and everything changes.
Moon Geun Young is doing a good job as Eun Jo. She reveals both the character’s vulnerability and her simultaneous cynicism. When Eun Jo wants to reach out but can’t, because of her own fears and shortcomings, Geun Young’s acting ably allows the audience to peek into Eun Jo’s heart. She does a brilliant job as the misunderstood stepsister, and I like how the writers are allowing the character to soften up, now that her stepfather has died and she needs to protect Hyo Sun from her own mother. The scene where Moon Geun Young breaks down and cries in front of her stepfather’s photo and calls him appa is heartbreaking. Geun Young shows Eun Jo’s realization of her love for her stepfather, her need for his praise, her desire to please him, and her desperation to reach him somehow.
Seo Woo plays Hyo Sun, or Cinderella. She is truly nice, and wants to become friends with Eun Jo. She is starved for a mother’s love, and clings to a woman who looks like her mother, trying to manipulate the situation so that her father can fall in love with Eun Jo’s mother. As time goes by, it becomes apparent to her that Eun Jo is much better at everything than her. She is afraid that her father will love her more, because he is so proud of her. She becomes jealous of that fatherly love. Also, when she sees that the man she has a crush on has fallen for Eun Jo, she hides a letter he leaves behind for Eun Jo, not wanting that connection between the two. She doesn’t realize until years later how much that act hurt Eun Jo, not until her stepsister breaks down and cries in front of her. Hyo Sun alternates between being bubbly and being jealous of Eun Jo. When her father dies, she reveals her maturity by revealing her awareness of her stepmother’s loving façade. She is hurt, but she is also growing so that she can help with her father’s company.
Seo Woo did a great job as the younger Hyo Sun. I found it hard to believe that Seo Woo was almost 25-years-old when she was playing the part of the teenager. Seo hasn’t had much chance to act beyond her bubbly, cutesy self, but in recent episodes I have seen the actress ably show Hyo Sun’s heartbreak at the loss of her father and her stepmother’s rejection. Seo Woo has done a good job in projecting Hyo Sun’s need to be loved, be it by giving presents or by physically hanging onto someone. I have seen her show maturity in interacting with Eun Jo and others. Overall, Seo Woo is doing a great job as Cinderella.
Chun Jung Myung plays Ki Hoon, aka Prince Charming. Both girls fall in love with this character when they were younger, and he breaks their heart when he goes away. Ki Hoon has his own problems with family (apparently he had a father who couldn’t keep his business in his pants), and has nothing but contempt for them. While he leaves his heart behind with Eun Jo, he leaves the message of that love in the hands of Hyo Sun, who deliberately does not pass that message on. He spends eight years away, and makes no contact with anyone at the Goo household. He returns, secretly planning to take over the company (wanting to protect it from his brother/father), and expects Eun Jo to welcome him with open arms. I found the younger character of Ki Hoon to be sweet and cute. I felt that he was a perfect open, sunshiny contrast to the dark and cynical Eun Jo. But, now, he returns with his own issues, he lies to Eun Jo and Hyo Sun both, and he is the indirect cause of their father’s death. The character carries a lot of guilt, and I cannot imagine him being able to live happily ever after with either one of the girls.
Chun Jung Myung does a great job as Ki Hoon. He has ably performed both aspects of prince charming. Chun Jung Myung’s eyes can convey the pain, the shock, and the guilt he is carrying around with him. When he is constantly rejected by Eun Jo, the pain he feels is clear in his face. We, as the audience, can see that he wants to reach out, but can’t. His constant pain and guilt gets to be tiring at times, and I want to see that smiling Ki Hoon again, but that isn’t up to the actor, is it? I just hope the writers loosen up a bit before the drama ends.
Lee Mi Sook is doing a great job as the evil stepmother. She can project the warmth and gentleness needed to fool Hyo Sun and her father, and she has become the evil stepmother, now that her husband has died. She is bitter about all the pain she has suffered, and you can see her anger coming through when she argues with the gods about taking her husband away from her.
Tacyeon is Han Jung Woo, Eun Jo’s faithful follower. Although he is always there for our heroine, this role doesn’t really require a lot of acting. He is a Korean drama’s archetypal second lead.
From what I have seen so far, Eun Jo and Ki Hoon should be together. They have the same issues with family, he is the first one that Eun Jo opens up to, and there was a connection between the two that was, unfortunately, broken. Even after eight years, the feelings are still there, the wounds still raw. Hyo Sun needs the both of them, but I really hope that I don’t see any of that sacrificing/martyr stuff in this drama. Both feel guilty to Hyo Sun, but that does not mean they have to sacrifice their own feelings. I want a happily ever after for the three of them, but I want Eun Jo and Ki Hoon to live happily ever after together. No open-endings please. This time, I hope that prince charming goes with the (not so) evil stepsister.