Review – Fated to Love You
This is a romantic comedy that stays pure to its genre. It’s stupidly, adorably romantic and really, really funny. It has the same zany humor, in many respects, as The Greatest Love and The Master’s Sun (though not quite as great as either). In other words, there’s one weirdo and one normal person trying to figure out how to navigate life with weirdo in tow. The weirdo in Fated to Love You is the male lead, played by Jang Hyuk.
Try to make it through the opening scene of this drama… which is incredibly awkward and the reason I turned off this show the first time I tried to watch it several years ago. Let us all collectively wipe the shampoo commercial from our memories. It serves its purpose for introducing the character, his abs, his bizarre personality, and the product that made his family fortune, but it’s just… awkward. The pacing is off. It actually made me feel uncomfortable – both times I watched it. BUT… stick to it. If you do, you will be richly rewarded with screwball comedy and a refreshingly different (and simple) romance.
Overall Rating – 8.5/10. Cheesy, adorable rom com.
I know this was a Taiwanese drama first, but I haven’t gotten into T-Dramas… or Chinese dramas or even Japanese dramas… though I may eventually. At the moment, I’m too enamored by the sound of the Korean language to deviate from my particular fandom. So there are no references or comparisons in this review to the other version.
Let’s just start with Jang Hyuk… “THE TEETH” as I call him. In this series, he sports the exact same haircut that the second male lead had in The Secret Garden. The cousin. Remember him? The washed up pop star? He was hysterical in The Secret Garden and Jang Hyuk is hysterical in this show.
Seriously, what kind of shampoo are these dudes using, cause I’m super jealous of how amazing their hair is. I still hold firmly to my belief that all handsome Korean actors should all be forced to grow out their hair long enough for a high ponytail in at least one drama. They pull it off.
Jang Hyuk plays the over-thirty, never married, heir to a family dynasty. He has this startling loud laugh that he uses when he’s nervous, or when he’s trying to get attention, or when he’s basically needing a few extra seconds to come up with a response. He is a showboat and tends to steal the microphone, both proverbially and literally. People don’t really like him but they begrudgingly respect him. He’s not a playboy rich heir but an active figure in the family business, going to work each day and steering the direction of his company.
(what did I say about the high pony tail?)
He’s so freakin’ weird! And everyone thinks so. In some shows, characters act flagrantly bizarre and everyone around them just plays it off as if that is somehow the acceptably weird behavior of the rich. Not in this show. His coworkers, his family, strangers on the street… everyone thinks he’s strange. “That laugh…?” They mutter. “At first, I thought he was a lunatic… but he’s actually quite nice.” Watch the facial expressions of the people around him when he starts acting crazy… they look as baffled as we are, as viewers. “What’s happening? Is this really happening? WTF?”
I have only seen Jang Hyuk in the historical dramas Slave Hunters and in Tree With Deep Roots. In both he played this tortured, serious brooding character that lurked around with a doomed fate, so this is my first time seeing him in a modern show. I had no idea he could be funny.
Cause he is. He’s really, really funny. To play someone who’s basically a buffoon yet utterly endearing, you have to have a certain je ne sais quoi. I didn’t think Jang Hyuk had it. I’ve certainly never seen it before. But lo and behold… the man delivers. I liked him by the end of episode one and was ready to marry him by the end of episode two.
“Do you take this buffoon to be your lawfully wedded weirdo?” – “I DO!”
Another thing I liked about his character was that he wasn’t a huge jerk. He didn’t run around talking about how everyone else was below him. How they didn’t deserve his company or affection. How rich he was. How amazing he was. He’s actually a pretty humble millionaire, by K-drama standards. In business, he can be cut throat, but personally he’s a pretty nice guy. Sure, there are a few episodes in the beginning where he’s treating our female lead like a leper, but you can tell his own behavior bothers him. The man was conflicted.
So let’s talk about the conflict. AKA, the plot. It’s quite simple (okay, there MAY be some amnesia thrown in, but whatever… clearly everyone suffers from brain trauma in K-world, that is a given). Our lead male is hopelessly in love with his girlfriend of six years. She’s a ballerina who has been touring abroad but she’s about to come home. Our lead male plans to propose to her and spends the entirety of the first episode planning an elaborate, romantic proposal scenario. Except everything goes wrong. She gets suddenly called back to New York, landing the lead in a ballet production. He gets drugged and ends up sleeping with another woman… who ends up pregnant. Even though this woman is a total stranger to him and he’s desperately in love with someone else, he agrees to marry her.
It’s a simple plot and it works perfectly. Because you can’t fault a man for still being in love with someone else. His struggle to do the right thing, by both women, is so heartbreaking and emotionally charged you never really fault him for his struggle. The ballerina basically twirls off stage for the first half of the show, leaving us with the main couple… our heir and our doormat.
Here’s our cute couple sharing morning sickness together. Gahhhhhh, so cute.
Let’s talk about the doormat. People refer to her as a post-it. Useful but disposable. She refers to herself that way, poor gal. Our male lead calls her “the snail,” first as an insult and then as a term of endearment. Jang Na-Ra was perfectly cast in this role. She’s tiny. So, so tiny. Her diminutive physical appearance, her soft whispered voice, and her huge anime eyes behind those thin rimmed glasses all create this adorably pathetic yet lovable girl that you’re rooting for day one. This is my first time seeing this actress and I loved her.
Again, I felt the rom com mold was broken a bit by this character. Even when she’s “transformed” into Cinderella, so to speak, with the traditional expensive makeovers, she’s still this mousy little thing with a bowed head. She’s nice, accommodating, and used to coming in last. She’s not a martyr, though. You don’t feel overly sorry for her. She doesn’t have a tragic backstory, she doesn’t live in poverty, she isn’t desperate or broken by the world. There’s no huge obstacle she must overcome or secret to her past that must be revealed. The usual drama devices are abandoned here. She’s got a loving family and a decent job and self respect. She just gets swept aside in life. Until she meets our male lead.
I loved them together immediately. When they woke up in each other’s arms in episode two, both thinking they were in bed with someone else while their drug addled brains (she was drugged too) make sense of their surroundings, I was smitten. They were so freakin’ cute together. It was like getting a sneak preview of the happy ending.
The romance is awesome. Cause they’re friends, really. He likes her and she likes him. There is no animosity between them. There is just this awkward situation. Okay, our male lead does freak out for a few episodes but that quickly blows over to strange acceptance. Followed by karaoke.
You get the feeling that someone has been looking out for our male heir his entire life. His family, his secretary. But he’s never had to take care of anything before. He finds that he’s pretty good at it. Our doormat makes him feel needed. Their romance is quiet, creeping in through small exchanges and tiny gestures. It brought out the sleeping school girl in me, to be sure… I was literally smiling and gasping and gushing when these two started to realize their feelings for each other. Oh my gosh, when they start “platonically” sharing a bed? One of the most memorably adorable romance scenes of all time. Those matching pajamas alone…
His girlfriend, the ballerina, is the exact opposite of our female lead, played by Wang Ji-Won. She’s fiercely independent, strong willed, and driven. She’s also largely forgettable.
Choi Jin Hyuk plays the equally forgettable second male lead. He’s searching for a long lost sister, or something. And preposterously ends up being mistaken for a priest by our female lead… cause… okay. But in reality he’s just a modern designer… and not quite a second love interest of our female lead or second female lead, because of the whole sister angle. He really wasn’t in the show much, and every time he was he was overshadowed by our male lead. I wasn’t impressed. He neither added to nor really distracted from the plot.
He also had the same expression in almost every scene. He was blank-faced scenery. And did anyone else think his voice is well suited for anime? He may not be the best actor, but his voice could easily be a leading role in Japanese animation.
There are a nice handful of supporting roles that are filled with quality actors. The moms on both sides, the sister, the friends, the families. They’re all quirky and funny and add to the story. Oh my gosh, that secretary! He was outstanding…
Basically, there are two parts to this story. Part One – accidental one night stand leads forced marriage leads to unlikely but unforgettable romance. This is roughly the first half of the show. The funny, rom/com half.
Part Two I will now refer to as…. three years later, our lead characters get new hairdos and torture each other for a while.
Seriously, his hair is like a secondary character in this show.
Basically, stuff happens in the middle of the show that separates our perfect pairing. Time has gone by and they’ve both grown up a bit more. Jang Hyuk now looks foxy with a styled crew cut and Jang Na-Ra has found some henna dye and contact lenses. Oh, and she’s an artist now… and having a solo exhibit at a gallery. I liked her coffee mug sketches, but am just not the biggest fan of her paintings. Apparently the real artist, Youk Shim Won, is very popular in Korea. But… Korean style is always questionable so let’s just suspend belief and go with the flow.
Randomly, the second male lead, who spent the first half of the show treating Jang Na-Ra’s character like a little sister, now seems to have decided to be a love interest. I guess? It’s vague and not very romantic. Even the character seems to realize it’s not very romantic. I actually think he’s still in “big brother” mode and believes he’s taking care of our female lead by now acting as her romantic partner. There isn’t much more to it than that – and it’s just a convenient plot device to offer a little conflict to our leading lovers.
Second female lead, our invisible ballerina, is now an invisible teacher. Poor kid. I felt sorry for her the entire show. I mean… she really did get the short end of the stick here. I felt like Wang Ji-Won might have more to bring to the drama table… she just wasn’t given much room to do anything of significance in this drama. I would like to see her in something else… maybe with more lines. The IDEA of this character was more powerful than the actual character. This makes sense if you’ve watched it. All those couples pictures… all those home movies… all the weight of that six year relationship hanging over our lead couple made for excellent drama throughout the show. What was and what might have been were much more powerful than what was happening in the present moment for our ballerina.
Our two main lovers must come back together – which is exactly what happens. Doormat has a little more spunk, but not a lot more (which was believable and I appreciated them not giving her an entirely new personality with her red hair). Weirdo is slightly less weird but still as awkward as ever. There’s an illness to be overcome. There’s an obligatory “nursing you back to health” scene. Warm compresses to the forehead equal true love, ya know. They have to shuffle through your basic misunderstandings, miscommunication, suppressed emotions, and confessions before laying all their cards out on the table for each other again.
In K-Dramas, there is no better place to unexpectedly declare you feelings than in front of a room full of strangers at a press conference. Cause international business isn’t as important as your heart, damn it.
And it’s fun to watch…. if not a little too slow for my taste. Part One had great pacing but Part Two tended to meander around. They could have cut five or six entire episodes from this show without loosing anything, but that can be said of almost every drama I have ever watched. I only found myself itching to fast forward a few times throughout the entire series, which is rare.
I really enjoyed this show, even though it dragged itself around towards the end. It was basically light-hearted, funny and romantic. Highly recommended if you need a break from melodramas and overly emotional plotlines. If you just want to relax with a great Cinderella/Frog Prince story, this is your ticket.