[Review] Haeundae Lovers – 해운대 연인들

SPLISH SPLASH BUT DON’T DIVE TOO DEEP

Prosecutor Lee Tae Sung (Kim Kang Woo) goes undercover as Nam Hae in order to catch a gangster who flees down to Busan.  He meets a former gangster’s daughter, Go Sora (Jo Yeo Jung) who ends up helping him when Tae Sung loses his memory.

A lot of the dramas I’m watching lately are pretty drama heavy, whether it’s supernatural in nature or a melo.  Haeundae Lovers seemed like a nice change of pace in counterprogramming.  It seemed like a fun, breezy drama without too much depth.  And that’s exactly what I got.

Led apple – Smile Again

I tend to always, ALWAYS roll my eyes whenever a drama uses amnesia in their plots.  This drama was no exception.  Not many K-Dramas find a sensible way to use this plotline.  However, I still wanted to give Haeundae Lovers a try because of the cast, the frothy nature of the plot and the writer co-wrote City Hunter.  I think Writer Hwang Eun Kyung should probably stick with dramas because while she can do cute in small snippets, a full-on romcom may not be her thing.

Going into this drama, you have to expect that it’s going to be formulaic.  You know how it’s going to play out and when it’s going to play out with all of its highs and lows before you even watch it.  I could have used some more character development and twists but again I knew what I was getting into.  I accepted that the drama’s amnesia plotline would be a large part of it.  But I was pleasantly surprised that it exceeded my expectations.

This is Kim Kang Woo’s first time out in the lead role and it’s the first drama of his that I’ve seen.  According to his resume, he’s done a lot of dramatic roles but here I think he’s got a real knack for comedy.  I often found myself laughing out loud at Tae Sung’s/Nam Hae’s antics and general prickliness.  There’s a fine line with that kind of acting.  You want to go above and beyond what’s considered normal human behavior without annoying people.

However, I wish we saw more of Tae Sung’s background since he was the main character.  I felt that for his character and honestly for most of the drama, I was going through those usual motions.  For someone who wrote City Hunter, I expected a reveal after reveal but I guess Hwang Eun Kyung wanted to focus on the lightheartedness of it all.  I’m okay with it but I know this writer is capable of scratching beyond the surface.

I’ve tried to watch Jo Yeo Jung in I Need Romance but my dislike for the drama prevented me from continuing past the first episode.  I have no issue with Jo Yeo Jung as I find her sweet and charming.  Here, as Go Sora, she’s super cute and plucky and even resembled a manhwa character.

In fact, that’s how you need to approach this drama as a whole.  It’s got over-the-top characters that do absurdly silly things.

As evidenced by Sora’s dad and her gangster uncles, Lee Soon Shin (Lee Jae Yong), Boo Young Do (Park Sang Myun) and Lee Dong Baek (Park Gun Il).

Im Ha Ryong plays Go Joong Sik, Sora’s dad.  At one time, he used to be the fierce gang leader who tried to turn his crew into upstanding citizens but due to a head injury he’s been reduced to helpless child.

Here’s another instance where I felt we could have used some more backstory.  Instead of merely telling us about the two gang factions through exposition, I would have liked to see how the discord came about and tie that in with how Tae Sung became an orphan.  The Romeo and Juliet nature of Nam Hae and Sora’s growing feelings would have been more palpable.

I’m surprised Lee Jae Yong took this role but kinda glad that he did.  It’s a nice change of pace to see him do a comedy and not always play the bad guy.  Park Sang Myun is how I expected him, the grumpy but cute uncle.  It’s kinda weird to hear Park Gun Il being called “an uncle” as Dong Baek because he’s so young but Sora never really singles him out as her uncle.  Instead, he’s part of the group of uncles.  (Technically, as with “oppa” age doesn’t really matter when calling someone “uncle” in Korean but it’s still a term of respect.)  I saw them more as friends.  Sora could have a conversation with someone she trusted but their similar ages made their situations relatable to each other.

In fact, I think Uncle Dong Baek substituted as Sora’s friend in place of Lee Gwan Soon (Park So Yeon), Uncle Soon Shin’s daughter.  I didn’t really miss her absence in the drama.  I honestly didn’t even notice it at first.  Sure, there was a lot of bad press swirling around her and T-ara but for her character, she didn’t really add much to the plot nor did I feel her character was going anywhere.  If her character was there to create obstacles for Sora, you still have to make her somewhat likeable and make us believe she could mature over the course of the drama.  Her absence tightened up the flow of the plot and cast.  As for her acting, I think she was decent enough to serve her purpose but it’s hard to really assess what she’s capable of.

At first glance, I thought I would end up dismissing Nam Gyu Ri as a pretty face with no talent.  But I really liked her in 49 Days.  Again, she’s playing that sweet chaebol girl but that all changes when Se Na discovers her husband, Tae Sung, is in love with Sora.  Okay, he had amnesia but when he’s unwilling to let Sora go, Se Na grows bitter.

Nam Gyu Ri – 해운대 연인들 (Haeundae Lovers)

남규리 – 해운대 연인들

I started off being sympathetic to her but then I grew indifferent.  You knew that she was going to give Tae Sung up anyways in the end and I just sat around waiting for that to happen.  The latter episodes were a waste of Nam Gyu Ri’s talent because it felt like the drama didn’t want to anything more but make her an obstacle.  Nam Gyu Ri is capable of handling so much more.  Next time around, I would like for her to be cast in some offbeat type of role because I think she could be really great in it but it seems casting directors only view her capable of playing the sweet, safe princess type.

Jung Suk Won rode his popularity from Rooftop Prince right into this drama.  He’s probably the main reason why I wanted to try this out.  The unfortunate thing was I don’t know what the writer wanted to do with Choi Joon Hyuk.  He’s had several inconsistent role reversals throughout.  He first appears as the white knight ready to save the damsel in distress.

When his advances are rejected, he suddenly goes super dark.  The whole boat scene goes from zero to sixty in a blink of an eye.

Then in the last episodes, he was all about hurting Nam Hae/Tae Sung and yet not wanting to hurt Sora.  The hero and heroine come as a package and you can’t play Joon Hyuk as a smart guy who wants to hurt Tae Sung while still trying to protect Sora.

Finally at the end of the day, he swoops in to save the day providing our leads with the help that they need.

At the drama’s best, I laughed and awwed over the funny and sweet moments of the drama.  There are plenty of them.  At its worst, I had the drama playing in the background while I browsed the internet on my phone or walked away to cook some dinner.  The drama is completely adorable and enjoyable as long as you know what to expect of it.

Rating

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