BRINGING THE UPSTAIRS, DOWNSTAIRS
This drama isn’t gonna be everyone’s cup of tea. This writer previously penned Pasta which told the story of a master chef and an apprentice chef falling in love. His/her style extends from trying to bring subtle drama from the banality of every day life. In short, some may find his/her style to be boring. Personally, I liked how this drama fused themes from Wall Street with Upstairs, Downstairs.
This drama boasts of an ensemble cast of characters. I’ve seen Sung Yuri in Hong Gil Dong where she was cute and lovable. Jung Kyeo Woon is fresh off from being in Sign, a drama about forensic scientists. Min Hyo Rin was in Triple as the aspiring figure skater and most recently in the movie Sunny. I’ve seen Kim Min Joon in this cable drama called Someday starring Bae Doo Na as a famous Korean-Japanese manga writer/illustrator and Kim Min Joon as her fan.
The main leads are Sung Yuri and Jung Kyeo Woon but they are not the main characters. The main character is actually the lottery ticket. It changes hands numerous times and it’s about how it influences the people around it. The story is about the people and the relationships of the residents of No. 1 Road. The effect the lottery ticket has on all the residents of No. 1 Road is kind of like watching an anthropological study. I kept wondering what Temperance Brennan would say if she saw how these cast of characters react to the sound of 10 billion won (approx. 10 million dollars) every time they brought it up.
Noh Soon Geum (Sung Yuri) doesn’t have any lofty goals of the typical heroines that we’re used to. She either want to earn a lot of money or marry someone rich. Kang Gun Woo (Jung Kyeo Woon) grew up in a rich household but due to his obesity he didn’t receive much respect from his father. The two characters meet just before Gun Woo is about to head off to the States to study for 3 years. During his absence, the original maid at the Kang household is fired and Soon Geum is hired.
Gun Woo returns much slimmer and much more confident to show his father, Kang Tae Won, just what he can accomplish in the stock trading world.
Kang Tae Won (Lee Jae Yong) married Seo Yoon Joo, aka Trophy Wife (Yang Jung Ah) and brought her to No. 1 Road 3 years ago. It was then when a kindly grandmother carrying an infant came to No. 1 Road in search for the baby’s father. It happened to be Kang Tae Won but he asked Gun Woo to pretend the baby was his since he was off to America and promised to reveal the truth when he returned. When Trophy Wife tried to assert power over Maid Choon Jak, she mocked that the newlywed wife has just become part of the family when Choon Jak had been with the family for years. Unwilling to backdown, Trophy Wife fires her and ends up hiring Soon Geum in her place. At Choon Jak’s request, Soon Geum takes over writing letters to Gun Woo in America and here is where the love relationship starts to surface.
Hwang Yong (Jo Sung Ha) is a gangster, an occupation which he is keeping secret. When Soon Geum finds out, she ends up becoming friends with him instead of fearing him, often relying on him for advice in the middle of the night and help when she needs the muscle. Hwang has had a crush on Trophy Wife ever since she’s arrived to No. 1 Road but Trophy Wife seems to be interested when she finds out that he is substantially richer than her own husband.
Kim Young Hee (Kim Min Joon) is a bachelor playboy. He made his fortunes by selling off his grandfather’s paintings and does nothing else with his time except to have fun and spend it. However, he’s the closest thing to a brother that Gun Woo has and often fill the family void for him. He begins to start having feelings for Soon Geum and despite having to compete her affections for her with Gun Woo, he maintains a bromance relationship with Gun Woo that continues to delight me. He views his maid Jung Da Kyum (Min Hyo Rin) as a sister to her dismay.
The last house on No. 1 Road is Jang Chi Gook’s (Lee Jung Gil) with the wife, Kim Soon Ok (Shin Shin Ae), and mistress, Oh Boon Ja (Kwon Ki Sun), all living together in one household. Jang Chi Gook is an elderly playboy that makes the moves on his maid, Oh Hyun Joo (Park Ji Young).
Finally, the maids. As I mentioned above, Soon Geum is the maid for Kang Tae Won, Da Kyum is Young Hee’s maid and Hyun Joo is Jang Chi Gook’s maid. Thu Zar Lin (Kim Ye Won) is a Vietnamese immigrant that is working as Hwang Yong’s maid and trying to earn enough money to send all her siblings back home to school. Uhm Soo Jung (Lee Kyung Shil) is a maid to a home on No. 1 Road but presently the residents are off living in America for the time being while she continues maintains the house alone. The maids often gather weekly to play Go Stop, do a lottery pool and gossip about the goings on of their employers.
The drama is all about how relationships and hierarchy are affected as the lottery ticket changes hands. Fortunes are reversed, reversed and reversed again. Soon Geum doesn’t have a good relationship with her father due to the fact that he’s a compulsive gambler. When she wins the lottery, she doesn’t want to let him in the secret because she is afraid that he will gamble her money away. But when her relationship with Gun Woo is revealed, her father is surprisingly sticks up for her. Gun Woo also doesn’t have a good relationship with his father after confirming the infant was his child, instead of admitting to being half-brothers. This all changes when Gun Woo ends up in possession with the lottery ticket and comes out from living in his father’s home. Always the carefree bachelor, Young Hee’s fortune changes when he realizes his grandfather’s paintings were forged and is unable to pursue Soon Geum stemmed from his shame of being poor and is now unequipped to wine and dine her. The maids fortunes change numerous times as they have and lose the winnings from the lottery ticket.
I’m used to seeing most of the older actors in sageuks or other serious minded dramas and movies. I wasn’t sure how they would do in this lighthearted slice of life but they truly command the scene. I was delighted to see the level of how much their characters were developed. It left a lot of room for these veteran actors to just run with the given material. Particularly near and dear to my heart is the refined Jo Sung Ha (playing Hwang Yong) and how he discovered his affection for Trophy Wife and Hyun Joo (less so, with Hyun Joo as that seemed a little forced but I just went with it).
I also relished in the cinematography choices from the beautiful scene of Soon Geum and Gun Woo walking along a cherry blossom tree-lined path to the humorous I’m-sleeping-with-my-money-blanket dream of Hyun Joo’s. It all conveyed the feelings without the words point of view of the drama. It is simply a treat for the eyes.
Last but not least, I simply adored the soundtrack because the feel good tunes that represented the love and lives of the people from this charming neighborhood. I’ll leave you with one of my favorite tunes by Alex (from Clazziquai) called “Smile and Goodbye”.
Alex – 웃으며 안영 (Smile and Goodbye)https://chunkeemonkeeato.files.wordpress.com/2011/07/01-ec9b83ec9cbceba9b0-ec9588eb8595.mp3%20