BEAUTY AND THE SELF-CONSCIOUS
Kim Young Ho (So Ji Sub) is a personal trainer to Hollywood stars, using the alias John Kim. He’s a very private person since he comes from a wealthy family in Korea. After a scandal with a famous actress, he returns to Korea to wait for it to die down and ends up saving Kang Joo Eun (Shin Min Ah) after she collapses on the plane back to Korea.
Formerly known as the “Venus of Daegu” in her hometown, she fulfilled her dream of becoming a lawyer but ended up gaining weight. On their 15 year anniversary, instead of receiving a proposal of marriage, Joo Eun is dumped by her boyfriend, Im Woo Shik (Jung Kyeo Woon). By ending his relationship with Joo Eun, he can now openly date Oh Soo Jin (Yoo In Young), Joo Eun’s best friend from her school days.
I think what drew me to this drama was how attractive and playful So Ji Sub and Shin Min Ah are on-screen. It’s typically what many viewers, including myself, look for in our rom-com K-Dramas. We want something that’s light-hearted and funny. The emotional stuff can build-up through the plot and if they are decent-enough actors, they can drive home those elements through the reveal of their characters’ backstories or through the plot. It’s fun to watch Kang Joo Eun refuse to concede to Young Ho’s pessimism.
MIIII – It’s me
I was also surprised to see Henry cast in this drama as Kim Ji Woong. In many ways, Henry is just playing himself as Ji Woong is goofy, garrulous and a bit of a buffoon. However, it’s hard not to smile when Ji Woong gets into his antics because like a puppy who doesn’t know he did anything wrong, Henry just wags his tail and smile his infectious smile. It does pay to watch the drama all the way through because when we reach the story’s climax, Henry delivers a powerful and emotional performance that just breaks your heart.
As much as She Was Pretty disappointed me when it came to discourse about perceptions of body image, Oh My Venus does a far better job in describing the pressures women face in the real world. Having said that, Shin Min Ah still looks gorgeous in a fat suit but dismissing unrealistic expectations that K-Dramas would cast an average looking woman in the lead, I can live with the fact that the drama was trying to tackle the issue of body image on a subconscious level.
I really think the drama achieves that beautifully through its female characters, especially Oh Soo Jin. Although she was overweight and achieved the body of a supermodel, it didn’t solve all her problems of insecurity. As for Joo Eun, she’s typically a confident woman with a lot spirit but she represents the relatable issue of wanting how you feel on the inside to match the visual appearance on the outside. Joo Eun wasn’t able to lose weight simply by exercising because she didn’t factor that a medical condition was affecting her metabolism. All diets aren’t the same because all bodies aren’t the same.
So while the drama provides some honest dialogue about the female body image, I was a bit taken aback by Kim Young Ho’s backstory. Most of his insecurity extends from growing up in a cold, unfeeling household as a sick child. There’s also the issue of his step-family, particularly the matter of succession in the chaebol household. Prompted by the head matriarch of the family, it is clear that she wishes Young Ho to lead the Gahong Group.
However, Young Ho’s step-uncle wants Young Ho’s step-brother to take over the family business and this causes the tension not only in the family but at the office as well. I can understand the jealousy that the step-uncle feels. It’s a clichéd plot that we see over and over again in dramas, including sageuks. What I don’t illogical is that the uncle carefully plots his takeover plans only to throw it all away in a fit of anger. I don’t find it plausible that someone who has been plotting methodically would suddenly resort to murder in order to get what he wants.
Thankfully, this storyline is wrapped up fairly quickly. It wasn’t even an interesting sub-plot to begin with but what results is that there is no real tension for this storyline. The climactic point just fizzles on delivery in the 3rd act because as soon as the problem presents itself, it goes away. Or rather, Kim Young Ho goes away. I’m happy that he returns to Joo Eun as a rehabilitated man but I’m upset at the way he handles the situation. He grew up lonely because of his illness and here he is again, bed-ridden, but he chooses to exile himself from the people that love him. I find nothing heroic about that.
Finally, in the last two episodes, when Young Ho and Joo Eun decide that they’re gonna be together, there’s really nothing left to do in the drama but fill it with fluff. It was so obvious that the writers ran out of material because they not only have Joo Eun recap what happened in their relationship in Episode 15 but the drama does it again in Episode 16 for several minutes, which is infuriating. I will admit that I loved how Joo Eun handled the scene with Young Ho’s grandmother. This scene pokes fun at the chaebol mother-in-law sending away the unsuitable girlfriend but the scene pays off hilariously.
It’s a cute drama and it tackles an important subject matter. The leads and their friends certainly make the drama hilarious and entertaining. Unfortunately for So Ji Sub, he deserved a meatier role. Since we spend a good portion of the drama empathizing with his pain, only to watch the tension fizzling away. Young Ho’s insecurity issues would have correlated meaningfully along side Joo Eun’s struggle. Such that, rather than dealing with it alone, they overcome the hurdle because they have each other and it makes them stronger.