She Was Pretty
Credit for all pictures go to their uploaders.
I just finished watching the Korean drama She Was Pretty, which aired from September, 2015 to November, 2015 on MBC. The drama starred Hwang Jung Eum as Kim Hye Jin and Park Seo Joon as Ji Sung Joon. Rounding out the Triangles were Choi Shi Won as Kim Shin Hyuk and Go Joon Hee as Min Ha Ri.
She Was Pretty is a story about our main character, Kim Hye Jin. She grows up as the apple of her parents’ eyes, every boy’s crush, and in the lap of luxury. She has a best friend Min Ha Ri. One day Min Ha Ri moves away, and Ji Sung Joon moves in. The two become really close friends and each others first loves. They share Renoir’s Dancing Couple painting as part of their secret code, and Hye Jin becomes Sung Joon’s umbrella. When Sung Joon has to move to the USA, they promise to write each other. One day, Kim Hye Jin’s world comes crashing down around her when her father loses all his money, and Hye Jin moves away, leaving everything, including her connection to Sung Joon, behind.
Years later, Sung Joon contacts her, and Hye Jin flies to meet him. Her first stumbling block becomes the drastically changed Sung Joon, who has transformed from the chubby, little kid she knew to the svelte, handsome, successful man he has now become. Hye Jin has transformed in the reverse, becoming poor, unemployed and with very rosy cheeks and curly hair. This leads to her self-esteem being at an all time low.
When she realizes how different they have become, Hye Jin runs away. She then asks her best friend, roommate, and the woman she calls wifey, Min Ha Ri, to step in and pretend to be her for one night. Min Ha Ri agrees and goes off to be Hye Jin.
The two meet, and Fake Hye Jin tells Sung Joon she’s leaving the country. They part with quite a bit of regret on Sung Joon’s part.
As it happens quite often in Korean dramas, it turns out to be a small world, and Hye Jin quickly realizes that she is now working for Sung Joon at her new place of employment. While being teased by her coworker, Kim Shin Hyuk, Hye Jin learns to work at her first real job. She does so while being berated on a daily basis by Sung Joon for being a pretty bad intern.
Despite his initial aversion to Hye Jin (which is never really explained), Sung Joon becomes aware of her and begins to like her. Hye Jin is aware of their growing closeness, and decides to tell Sung Joon the truth about her.
What she doesn’t know is that Sung Joon has met Ha Ri again, and her best friend has continued to pretend that she is Hye Jin. Under the misconception that Ha Ri is his Hye Jin, the two have begun to date. Because of his commitment to his first love, our Fake Hye Jin, and his confusion over Intern Hye Jin’s similarities to his own Hye Jin, Sung Joon reacts badly to another one of Intern Hye Jin’s mistakes and fires her.
When that problem is quickly solved, Hye Jin comes back to work. She has now transformed into a beauty, having learned how to do makeup and hair during her time off. She begins to blossom in her role, even remembering an old dream about becoming a children’s story writer. Before she can get too happy, Hye Jin then finds out what Ha Ri has been doing behind her back, and she decides to give her wifey time to do the right thing.
The truth comes out in the worst circumstances, and Sung Joon goes running to Hye Jin. The two reminisce about the past, and Sung Joon is surprisingly okay with her lies. When Hye Jin realizes that Ha Ri didn’t have the chance to say anything to explain herself to Sung Joon, Hye Jin then runs to her friend to comfort her. She sees Ha Ri crying her heart out. This causes Hye Jin to backs off from being with Sung Joon because it would hurt Ha Ri too much.
Ha Ri mopes around for a few days and then decides to reinvent herself. She tells Hye Jin in the process to stop being idiotic and go be with Sung Joon.
Hye Jin and Sung Joon get together, and she becomes his support, while the two work together to save their magazine. Once the magazine is saved, due to the sacrifice of the second male lead (who, seeing Hye Jin’s tears, decided to out himself as the famed and mysterious Korean writer despite his intense need for privacy), the two are almost on their way to a happily ever after.
Throwing one final spanner in the works, the couple is separated for a year by Hye Jin’s growing ambition to be a writer. The two work the long-distance thing, while they work at their respective careers.
Sung Joon returns early, the two marry, have a cute child, and live happily ever after. We get glimpses of Ha Ri studying in graduate school, and Shin Hyik bumming around the world and writing. Each of them still alone and missing their “loves”.
I really, really wanted to like this drama. Like really. But I found that I couldn’t because of my dislike of almost all of the characters. Also, the writing didn’t make sense. And in this drama, more than any other, the triangles began to really annoy me.
Hye Jin was shown as this pretty child, born with a silver spoon, and when her world came crashing down around her, she abandoned Sung Joon without a second thought. One could understand that as the unthinking actions of a child, but then to do the same stupid things as an adult without the excuse of youth made me dislike her.
Upon meeting Sung Joon again, she had Ha Ri pretend to be her. When coming into contact with him at work, she continued to lie to him. She refused to learn anything about her job, and Ha Ri had to point out to her that her boss was right in calling her out on not knowing anything about the job she would be doing for the next 3 months. She let the lie continue when she discovered what her friend was doing. Finally, when Hye Jin pulled back from Sung Joon for Ha Ri’s sake, I wanted to smack some sense into her for how callous she was being to the man she supposedly loved. Her tears irritated more than engendering any sympathy.
Hwang Jung Eums manic acting takes a little bit of getting used to, and I have likef her in the other dramas I have seen her in, but in this drama it increased my dislike of Hye Jin. The actress made the character too manic in the beginning episodes, when it made no sense to the character she was supposed to be portraying. And then, with her physical makeover, the actress began playing the character as if she had gotten a personality transplant and we were just supposed to accept this quieter, more mature Hye Jin? I didn’t buy it. Or was it that the writer did such a good job of showing us the worst part of her, which came out due to her nervousness around Sung Joon or the manic energy that burst forth when she was depressed or desperate, etc. that I couldn’t believe that she could actually be a normal human being, even though she was like that for half the drama.
This drama was also about this great friendship between these two women. Which would’ve been so fun to watch, if only they had gotten it right. But Ha Ri stabbed Hye Jin in the back without a second thought. Of course, once she betrayed Hye Jin, she had tons of thoughts and felt guilty, but even then she completely dragged her feet about telling the truth.
I didn’t get Ha Ri’s love for Sung Joon. I didn’t get why she thought it was worth it to sacrifice a lifelong friendship for it. I didn’t get why it took her so long to tell the truth. Her character didn’t make sense, and she barely made an impact. She was there to be another obstacle in our OTP’s path and clung far too long.
In the end, she got her punishment. If we look at the character, she’s never going to be comfortable around her best friend’s husband. I don’t have faith that the friendship will really last. At least, not as strong as it had been up until then.
While he was the second lead in the drama, and the other angle in our Male-Female-Male triangle, I didn’t really talk about him up above. He was there. A lot. And acting very manic for many of the episodes.
Shin Hyuk was good for a few laughs, up until he fell in love with Hye Jin. His repeated confessions, followed by “Just kidding” got old fast. His attempts to hold on to her, despite how clear she’d made her disinterest made him pathetic. His relentless teasing of Hye Jin made him see overbearing and uncaring of what she wanted.
I had no sympathy for him, and just wanted him to grow up and move on. I didn’t get the love he felt for Hye Jin. He was a coward that wouldn’t make a serious confession, and months after his rejection he was still thinking about Hye Jin. Ugh.
I like Choi Shi Won. I appreciate his acting. Just not in this drama.
Despite how mean he was in the beginning episodes (which made no sense, since that’s not how he was portrayed later on), he was the only character I liked. His attachment to his first love was laudatory, but sad. The drama explained his obsession as him imprinting on her after losing his mother and being unable to let go of their unfinished story.
He grew up being bullied, but made something of himself. He came back to Korea, and the first thing he did was to look up his best friend. He treated her, or Fake Hye Jin, in the best way possible. And when he realized his heart was loving another, he was cruel to that other because of his misplaced loyalty. His little moments of being aware of her, of how she helped everyone and never took care of herself, and then of him taking care of her were a treat to watch. Who could forget the onion, the medication when she had a cold, or cradling her head to letting her lean on him to sleep. Of him being mesmerized by her, even when she was the “ugly” her, was beautiful. I loved how he couldn’t stop from taking her pictures when they went on that work trip.
Park Seo Joon really sold Sung Joon. His confusion in Episode 8, when he was torn by what his eyes saw/his heart believed and what his head knew was a treat to watch. His exhaustion and his soul deep pain was apparent in his eyes. He really shone in that scene. And the editing, with the music, scenes and his reactions all matched perfectly.
Sung Joon was the one thing the writer got right, and she almost fumbled that one, too. I liked him, except for his meanness to Hye Jin in the beginning episodes because he thought her name was too good for her. Huh? That meanness was out of character with the character he had in the next 12.
But in the end, he was too forgiving. There was no anger for all of the emotional turmoil Hye Jin and her best friend Ha Ri put him through. There was the initial lie. The continuous hiding of the truth by Hye Jin and outright lies by Ha Ri. And then, when Hye Jin discovered what Ha Ri was doing, she stepped back and trusted Ha Ri to say the truth. Finally, when he did discover the truth and was ready to go all in, Hye Jin was all willing to sacrifice their love. Even then, he was so patient. So I guess, I’m calling him out for being too damn nice at some points.
But besides even that, I understood his love for Hye Jin and wanted him to get Hye Jin because that’s what he wanted. His love for the Intern Hye Jin was organic to the story, and I saw how the intern went from being on his radar to being appreciated by him to him being mesmerized by her to him loving her.
The discontinuity in writing, for 3 out of the 4 characters brought the story down. They weren’t what they were portrayed to be at the beginning of the show, and that felt like a total cop out. It felt that these characters wore facades just to move the story along in the direction the writer wanted it to go. Because of those forced actions, I felt no connection to the characters or the story.
The continuous reasons to keep the OTP apart got old fast. Hidden identities to BFFs loving your guy to career ambitions were two too many obstacles. Especially when we were in the last 5 minutes of the penultimate episode, and we suddenly got a year long separation. And the pace of the story at that point became so manic that I struggled to keep up and really wondered at why I still cared to do so.
And the story was so disjointed in terms of the older generation. I know we’re not supposed to care, but why did I, as the viewer, have to try to figure what happened between Ha Ri’s parents? For the longest time, I thought the husband was the betrayer, but it turns out he just didn’t love her? The mother left and left her daughter behind? As you can see, still a lot of confusion here about that. That little bit of the story bothered me more than it should have. Then we don’t know what happened with Hye Jin’s parents, and I wondered about that. Finally, why didn’t we get to see anything about Sung Joon’s father. So little things like that, which should be part of your average world building were just missing.
And then, on the other end, we had the info dump regarding Shin Hyuk. We know nothing about him except for the fact that he is a happy go lucky guy and loves Hye Jin until the last episode. Well okay, from the last 5 minutes of the 15th episode. We suddenly find out he’s Ten, the famous writer. That he was adopted by a couple in America when he was a child. That he treasures his privacy. That he might not know anything about his Korean family? (Not too sure about this one). In the interests of having this whole mystery on who Ten was, the drama writer sacrificed the depth we could’ve gotten from Shin Hyuk’s character.
Of course, this is the same writer who gave us Sung Joon, so I guess there were some enjoyable bits. 😛
The emotions of the second leads, where the love came from, was not fully explained. Without that explanation, I couldn’t connect with them. I couldn’t sympathize with them. They were at their clingy best, and did the job of being more irritating than entertaining.
And I hate triangles, especially when the writer creates them to increase the tension, rather than allowing those second leads to become their own OTP. The original teasers of the show had our second leads together. Oh, what an interesting drama we might have had if Shin Hyuk and Ha Ri got their own story rather than being the secondary characters in our OTP’s story.
She Was Pretty was a disappointment, but it was worth watching for Park Seo Joon’s Sung Joon. I give it a 6 out of 10.