I don’t know what it is about older women-younger men dramas, but I just realized I saw three this year: Woman Who Still Wants to Marry, Dal Ja’s Spring, and now What’s Up Fox?
They were all in varying degrees of entertaining and good-ness. Dal Ja’s Spring is definitely better than Woman, and I think What’s Up Fox is up there too. (The writer of My Name is Kim Sam Soon also did What’s Up Fox, but Sam Soon was infinitely better story wise.)
It doesn’t hurt to have Chun Jung Myung charming his way into Go Hyun Jung‘s and my hearts too.
The drama follows Go Byung Hee (Go Hyun Jung), a 33-year-old (they love the number 33) writer for a sex magazine who hasn’t had a boyfriend or had sex yet. So she pretty makes up all the experiences and information for the magazine. She lives with her real estate agent mother and her model perfect sister. Her best friend Seung Hye (a winning Ahn Sun Young) and younger brother Chul Soo (Chun Jung Myung) were orphaned at an early age and therefore pretty much grew up with Byung Hee’s family. Byung Hee is also 9 years older than Chul Soo.
It starts with Chul Soo’s return to Korea after a year long jaunt traveling the world. Seung Hye is angry that Chul Soo would not contact her for so long, and everyone had thought he was dead. Meanwhile, Byung Hee finds out she has a tumor in her uterus and is afraid that it might be cancer. She drinks herself to oblivion in a small seaside town and Seung Hye sends Chul Soo to go pick her up. Byung Hee, in her drunkenness, throws the car keys into the ocean and so the two of them are forced to spend the night in the town. She kisses him, and they end up having a one night stand.
The rest of the drama has Byung Hee trying to forget the night, while Chul Soo begins to realize his feelings for Byung Hee. It turns out he’s always had a crush on her, and since they both had their ‘first time’ with each other, it brings out even deeper feelings. When Byung Hee starts dating a urologist Bae Hee Myung, Chul Soo resorts to childish tactics as he acts out on his jealousies. Eventually, Byung Hee finds herself in dire need of surgery and she realizes that the only person she wants to see when she wakes up is Chul Soo.
So while it’s fine and dandy that they’ve now realized their feelings for each other, the problem is getting the families to accept it. On top of that, Chul Soo gets called to the army, and they’ll have to part for two years. Both are uneasy with that solution, since they’re not sure the other will stay faithful. Chul Soo decides that it might be better if they break up; after all, the bad reputation falls on the woman more than the man if she is still single and waiting for a younger boyfriend. But Byung Hee can’t easily forget him, and when he presents her a gift of a renovated mini bus (that becomes a tiny love shack for the two), she decides that she’d rather wait for him after the army stint, and will just keep visiting him.
The drama sounds a lot sweeter after I’ve summarized it, but there were a lot of other side stories that had me cracking. This drama is not afraid to put in plenty of fart and sex jokes. But the winning combination of Chun Jung Myung and Go Byung Hee really made the drama interesting.
Unlike in Dal Ja’s Spring where I could forget about the age difference between Chae Rim and Lee Min Ki, I couldn’t ignore it in this one. They’re really 9 years apart, and it shows. But Chun’s childish persistence is what makes it less weird and more sweet. Since he is 24, he does not pretend he’s older; he’s going to make her laugh with silly antics and he’s going to whine to Byung Hee. The two of them – if they weren’t so romantic – have such a brotherly-sisterly vibe that I’m sure transferred over off-screen (and fueled rumors of dating). Whenever Byung Hee gets angry at Chul Soo, it comes off naturally, and I prefer seeing her angry and annoyed rather than smiling and trying to act cute with Hee Myung. Actually I just don’t like it when Go Hyun Jung acts cute to anyone – it seems like she’s trying too hard.
Before and After
While Chun Jung Myung’s insolence and jealousy never fail to get me cracking, his quiet scenes with just his eyes are so great. He has a few of them, and you can see each transition from anger to happiness, sadness to happiness, drunkenness to alertness, each moment of pain or joy that he feels. It’s amazing – he can really be one of those character actors given a good script. (I am still not going to watch Cinderella’s Sister though – even if the dramatic beats may use his eyes to full effect.)
Ahn Sun Young was brilliant – I loved her as the “gangsta” sister that she was. She yelled until her voice was hoarse – and I’m sure she couldn’t fake that – and she hit with amazing believability. She went all the way with her character that, even though she was at times over-the-top, I believed her when she threatened the two of them with death if they ever became an official couple. Not to mention, she also had great chemistry with Chun Jung Myung.
(By the way, Son Hyun Joo – who appeared in Sons of Sol Pharmacy – is hilarious in this role. He’s completely a different character.)
Aside from the acting, the other thing that had me going in this drama were all those scenes that made my heart flutter with excitement, or make them drop into my stomach. Simple scenes between Byung Hee and Chul Soo, like when they slept on each other’s lap/shoulder or when he kissed her on the cheek, were so effective and so heartwarming. (Yes I sound like a cliche right now, but it’s true.) Those simple scenes get to me more than any love scenes or kissing scenes, because I can feel the sincerity between them. When they hug each other tightly, it’s not “strong-enough-to-make-it-believable” but rather “strong-and-believable.”
I’m surprised with the ending though. I knew it would happen – that they would end up together – but there was an opportunity for a time jump and they didn’t really take it. Woman and Dal Ja’s Spring had the characters reunite after about a year or so. In this one, they could have jumped to two years later, but they just jumped about a month (which isn’t really that much, since a previous episodes skipped about three months in just a couple of episodes). I did not think she was going to go to the army and see him right away, and that they would settle their relationship while he was in the army.
Now for my BIGGEST COMPLAINT of the year: why is the younger guy always so perfect?!
Kim Bum, Lee Min Ki, Chun Jung Myung – all of them were younger, lacked flaws, and incredibly romantic. They doggedly pursued their “noona” and won in the end. They insisted that they could still be together after separation, but all were willing to let them go. They were straightforward with their feelings and knew that they loved their girl before she knew it herself. They would tell the girl – through words or actions – about their love for her. They would never be fazed by the age gap. They were SO PERFECT, and the “other guy” who was more professionally suited for the girl was always rejected.
WHERE THE HELL ARE THESE GUYS!? Yes, you can say that since Dal Ja’s and What’s Up Fox are older dramas, they still stuck to the typical K-drama formula with happy endings, but Woman came out this year – and they still had the perfect younger guy. These guys don’t exist!
Rating: 7/10 (extra point for Chun Jung Myung)