[Review] High Society – 상류사회

WITH AGE COMES MATURITY…

Jang Yoon Ha (Uee) is the chaebol daughter but despite her wealth, she works part-time at a food market and hides her true identity from her employers and her friends. She dreams of one day leaving her family and finding a man who loves her for who she is. While Choi Joon Ki (Sung Joon) grew up in a loving family, he grew up poor and saw the demeaning treatment his parents faced because of it. Joon Ki is smart but jaded and is looking for a rich woman to raise his class status.

Yoo Chang Soo (Park Hyung Shik) is the typical chaebol playboy whose only aim to beat his brother. He falls for the poor Lee Ji Yi (Im Ji Yeon) only because she dismisses his wealth and status. Lee Ji Yi imagines that all chaebols have things easy while she’s had to struggle alone in order to support herself. She’s Yoon Ha’s best friend but doesn’t know that Yoon Ha is secretly a chaebol.

After watching Heard It Through the Grapevine, I’ll admit that I wasn’t in the market for another chaebol drama. Leave it to Sung Joon to draw me to this drama. I blame it on his eyes. However, the interesting thing about High Society is that the drama plays out a logical debate about family, love and class. Now that could be a good or bad thing depending on what each person looks for in a drama as it’s not the most exciting thing to watch people discuss their thought process. And still, I found the points that the drama touches on engrossing.

Jung Yeop – 눈부신 하루 (Dazzling Day)

정엽 – 눈부신 하루

The thing about Uee is that I find her getting better and better with each drama that she takes on. I found her quite stale in Jeon Woo Chi but think that it was more the way her character was written rather than her talent as an actress. As Yoon Ha, she’s also a bit dry but it’s because Yoon Ha was raised to hold back her emotion that she downplays Yoon Ha’s warm side around her family. Despite not being totally forthcoming with Ji Yi, Yoon Ha seems the most comfortable in her own skin around her and so Uee is able to show the dichotomy of her character.

As banal as it is to see Sung Joon play another smart, conflicted character, I don’t mind because he plays that type so well. Despite the fact that Joon Ki starts off in the drama manipulating the emotions of the people around him, Sung Joon makes us feel sympathetic for his character because of his parents.

While he doesn’t want the life that he’s parents had, he loves his family very much. There’s also the matter of the fact that his mom (Yang Hee Kyung) and dad (Nam Myung Ryul) are so loving that you can’t hate Joon Ki because of them as well. As much as he deserves Yoon Ha’s anger when she finds out about his motives, the drama lays such thick foundation about his backstory that we can help but pity Joon Ki when he realizes that he’s in love with her.

Almost the exact opposite of Joon Ki’s parents, I found a hard time watching Yoon Ha deal with her family, especially her mom played by the venerable Go Doo Shim. It made me wonder why Go Doo Shim would want to take on the role of the boozy, sharp-tongued, irascible Min Hye Young.

As awful as Min Hye Young is to Yoon Ha, Go Doo Shim is great pulling out all the stops in playing the character. I was quite surprised to see that as much as Yoon Ha doesn’t see eye-to-eye with her mother, she doesn’t hate her and therefore their heart-to-heart at the end of the drama is highly satisfying.

As for Yoo Chang Soo and Lee Ji Yi, I loved watching this couple grow from indifference to intrigued to love. As a chaebol playboy, I’m sure Chang Soo had his pick of women he could have played around with but the mama boy that he is, he knew that his only choice for a marriage partner is to find a rich woman that will help him maintain his status and appearance. Chang Soo and Ji Yi knew fully well that eventually would need to end at some point and approach each other cautiously but didn’t realize how deep their feelings would go.

They also balanced the Yoon Ha and Joon Ki couple well as if you see Yoon Ha and Joon Ki as the melodrama couple, then Chang Soo and Ji Yi were the carefree pair.

Towards the end of the drama though, the two couples almost change places as Yoon Ha kept Joon Ki at a distance while Chang Soo tried to suppress the pain of being separated from Ji Yi.

Acoustic Collabo – 그러지마요 (Don’t Do That)

어쿠스틱 콜라보(Acoustic Collabo) – 그러지마요

My favorite scene featuring Chang Soo and Ji Yi is when they meet and resolve that they need to break up before their feelings grow any deeper. Chang Soo manages to keep it all in as Ji Yi bursts into tears. As Chang Soo is unable to hold back and sheds a tear, the raindrops begin to fall which masks the fact that he is also in pain. This moment showcases Park Hyung Shik’s acting and how far he’s come. And then they decide that they shouldn’t break up on a rainy day and go off and have sex. Ha, as amusing as the scene is, their love is so palpable that I can see why they’re not able to let each other go.

The drama isn’t without its problems though. For example, what causes Yoon Ha to enter the family business is the fact that her brother, Jang Kyung Joon (Lee Sang Woo), who is the only family member that seems to love her and who she loves in return, disappears and is presumed dead. That’s what drives most of the drama in the story and when the truth is revealed, I kept hoping that the drama would provide some resolution between Kyung Joon and Yoon Ha’s eldest sister, Jang Ye Won (Yoon Ji Hye).

On the one hand, I understand where Ye Won’s greed for ambition comes from as her father seems to dismiss her because she’s a woman. There is something familiar about seeing siblings squabble for keys to the kingdom as there is a legacy of that in the royal history of Korea. And yet, we never seemed to get a conclusion about the beef between these Kyung Joon and Ye Won; and I can’t quite understand why the drama focused so much about the business and the legacy issue in the first place.

The other matter is the fact that because the characters in the drama discuss the issues of love, class and money in such a logical manner, the drama is mostly expository rather than driven by action. While I would usually criticize the drama for talking things out when they could show it, I actually didn’t mind it as much in this drama but I know that many viewers would have differing opinions about this.

I loved that Chang Soo was able to reason with his mother (Jung Kyung Soon) about his feelings for Ji Yi. We’ve seen all too often dramas where the hero staging a big romantic stance for the one he loves but it’s not entirely realistic. Who knew the words, “I chose you, mom,” could drive the chaebol mother-in-law to cave?  Ha.  Ji Yi, for her own part, she breaks down Chang Soo’s mother simply by being who she is, charming her with her positivity.

The drama ends a bit earlier than I would have expected it to end only because I thought there would be more of a conclusion resolution in the drama with the family members. However, the main four leads alone are enthralling to watch. Since the actors are so good at pulling you along for the emotional ride, I wasn’t so concerned by all the loose ends of the plot. The drama seems to be saying that not all of their problems were solved but they’ve each found their happiness by making their love work despite their class status. And that’s pretty darn sweet.

Rating

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