Sunday, January 25, 2015

ON TV - The "Prince" of K Dramas? Coffee Prince


17 episodes aired in 2007

Synopsis:  A young man from a well-to-do family returns to his home in Seoul after several years working and living in America.  His family pressure him into making something of himself by getting married and/or joining the family business.  In order to prove himself he is challenged to make a success of a run down coffee house.  He re-styles it as Coffee Prince with the gimmick being an all male staff.  One of these staff is a poor boy who the young man has had several run ins with and of whom he's become reluctantly fond.  Unbeknownst to him this boy is actually a young woman with androgynous looks who is mostly focused on supporting her mother and sister, so she keeps her gender a secret in order to stay at her job.  Sparks fly between these two and the question is will they be able to find a happily ever after?

The Players
This show has a pretty big "ensemble" cast and it attempts to give everyone some little bit of storyline but Eun Chan and Han Kyul are the primary players.
Eun Chan:  An androgynous and rather naive young woman who works hard to support her poor family.  At one point she has a crush on both Choi cousins but her feelings for her boss Han Kyul quickly deepen.
Choi Han Kyul:  A 29 year old handsome playboy from a well-to-do business family.  He just wants to have fun and design "legos" in America but his family doesn't approve and they demand that he prove he is a responsible adult.  Starting out with a crush on his cousin's girlfriend, he is taken aback by his developing affection for his young male employee.
Choi Han Sung: Han Kyul's cousin who works in the music business.  He befriends Eun Chan when she delivers his milk and plays with his dog (Terry aka Sweeper - what kind of name is Terry!)  He is in an on again/off again relationship with the stunning Yoo Joo.
Yoo Joo:  An artist who is also just returning to Seoul after time in America.  She is in love with Han Sung but is confused and afraid of commitment.  She is also friends with and the object of affection for Han Kyul, at least initially.
Han Sung and Yoo Joo
The Other Princes - Ha Rim, Sun-Ki, Min Yeop:  These guys mostly add comic relief and additional side dramas.  Ha Rim is a "player" who learns to commit, Min Yeop is a door mat in love with Eun Chan's sister, and Sun Ki is possibly Japanese and is in Seoul searching for the woman he loves who ran away from him.
Sun Ki, Ha Rim and Min Yeop   
Eun Chan's Family - Eun Sae and Her Mother:  Eun Sae is a teenager and still in school.  She's rather stuck up and bratty but she loves her sister and has a good heart.  Eun Chan's mother initially seems quite useless and selfish but as the show goes on she becomes more responsible.  She is being pursued by the neighborhood butcher who adores her.
Han Kyul's Family - Grandmother, Mother and Father:  Han Kyul's grandmother is the ruler of the roost  - she adores her charming grandson but also thinks he needs some direction.  She is strong willed and runs the family business and she is also suffering from cancer.  Han Kyul's mother is more conventional and sweet and Han Kyul adores her.  Han Kyul has a difficult relationship with his father which is explained during the show's run.

My Thoughts

This was my first experience with a "K Drama" and it was crazy addictive and great.  I learned about K Dramas from a great post by Elizabeth at So Long and Thanks for all the Fish called K Dramas 101.  Her number one recommendation was Coffee Prince and since I listen to everything she says I decided to see what all the K Drama FooFaRoo was about over Christmas break.  It's available to watch for free on Hulu but beware the subtitles are TERRIBLE.  Like really really terrible. 

So what's it all about?  Basically it's a 17 episode romantic comedy.  There is massive couple angst between Han Sung and Yoo Joo and slow developing feelings between Han Kyul and Eun Chan.  And then some more angst.  And then a whole huge barrel full of adorable.  It's a modern fairytale. It's also special with its own charm quite different than anything we get here in the states.  At the heart of this is I think how naturally the relationships are portrayed - the interactions feel almost unscripted at times.  Like the director just told the actors that they should just goof off with one another and then filmed it. 
There are some emotional set pieces and they really pack a wallop as well.  For some reason I can't put my finger on and despite a lot of fun ridiculousness, it all seems so very authentic.
Some other things I love.  The main character Eun Chan and actress who plays her.  You can tell during certain moments that the actress is likely a very attractive woman but most of the time you would not know it.  She 100% throws herself into the role of a girl who is easily mistaken for a boy and it completely works.  There are scenes of her scarfing down food that can't be described.  After the jig is up and she is revealed as a girl, she does nothing to feminize her appearance. She is who she is; exuberant, honest, friendly, in love with the world.  Even as Han Kyul pressures her to marry him before she is ready she stands firm because she wants to prove she can stand on her own two feet and she wants to learn and be her own person.  I also love that she wins Han Kyul's heart even though: 1) he thinks she's a guy (the show completely commits and its pretty awesome), 2)  he has seen her snarf down food in the most insanely disgusting manner possible, 3) he's seen her looking her absolute worst.  He falls in love with her spirit and character and the show never backs away from this. 

I also have to say a few things about the leading man Han Kyul.  His character makes a very believable redemptive arch from arrogant, selfish, playboy who is very impressed by appearances to a wiser, more responsible adult.  I don't know if it's just me, but the effectiveness of this arch for me was exemplified in how attractive I found him.  In the first several episodes, I thought he was good looking of course but not all that.  By episode 9 or 10 however, I was in full on crush mode and thought that he may be the hottest, most adorable actor of all time :0).  He is extremely expressive and in particular his slow smile is a knock out.  One of my favorite moments with him is when he is teasing Eun Chan on the phone by testing her affections for him.  He finally drives her to a point where she suddenly shouts out that she loves him.  His reaction is hilarious.
But he then recovers himself and yells back at her that the love she feels for him can't possible measure up to how he loves her and then hangs up immediately followed by one of those slow adorable smiles.
Any negatives?  Besides the subtitling awfulness there are a couple of missteps.  One involves the relationship between Han Sung and Eun Chan which to me mostly had a big brother-little sister vibe.  The last 2-3 episodes are a little slower and less exciting like they are dragging things out a bit more than was really warranted by the material but it's not awful


Hopefully this adequately conveys how much I really loved my first experience with K Dramas.  It was insanely addictive in a "It's one in the morning but I have to watch just one more episode" sort of way.  I had to get all strict with myself and spread it out over a few weekends or else I wouldn't have done anything else.  The show had many familiar fairy tale elements but it did manage to surprise me a few times and pulled off a number of extremely emotional moments as well as making me believe whole-heartedly in the rightness of Eun Chan and Han Kyul despite their many differences. 

I will definitely be watching some more K Dramas in the future and will likely watch Coffee Prince again some time.  Thanks Elizabeth!


No comments:

Post a Comment