Dali and the Cocky Prince is a light-hearted, cute romance. It’s predictable and charming, like ordering the dish you know you like at the restaurant even though you promised yourself you would try something new. It’s the safe bet. You know you’ll enjoy it but you also know it will probably blur together in your memory with all the other times you ordered it.
This is not to say it has nothing new to offer. The premise itself is new and fresh – exploring the world of fine art and all the nuances involved in maintaining an art museum. Though there should have been a lot more of this written into the script, both to establish characters further and to elevate the shows themes. More on this topic in the spoiler section below.
The two leads were adorable and I genuinely cared about both of them. Their struggles were believable, their personalities distinctive and unique, and their immediate chemistry hooked me to this show in the first episode. Honestly, the couple’s chemistry is what kept me from abandoning this show all together – cause there were a few moments in my viewing that I felt rather bored with the whole storyline. Thankfully the main couple were both cute, quirky, and risk-takers in fashion – which is an art form in itself. How could I abandon ship when I looked forward to seeing what they’d be wearing each episode?
I thoroughly enjoyed all the side characters in this drama, too – though I instantly forgot about them as soon as the show was over. It would have been nice if they’d let the roots go a little deeper with these characters, as they each promise. I mean, sure, we had a bunch of hammy trope characters (the goofy one, the serious one, the broody one, the dutiful one, the earnest one, and so on) but the potential was there to expand past that. Tell us more! The overall impression of the cast was firmly set in place, so why not add a bit more depth… some shadow, some contrast, some dimension to make the forms pop. It would have made the show far more memorable. Character development is what separates really good shows from the mix, really. A lot of shows might be worth hanging in your living room, but only a few will hang in a gallery or a museum… if we continue with the artistic metaphors.
So it is this, the wasted potential, which ultimately leads me to recommend this show but not rave about it. She’s good quality, but I can’t help but thinking she could have been a star. Check it out if you have the time and you just want to relax with some low stress cuteness, two adorable fashionistas falling in love, and some cool artwork.
Overall Rating: 8/10. An Affordable Reproduction of a Romantic Masterpiece.
MILD SPOILERS FOLLOW
Tell me why you love it.
I mean… check out these awesome promo pictures. I feel I was promised a little more art than what I ultimately ended up with.
Honestly, I wish we’d dived a little deeper into discussions of art because it really is a fascinating subject. The often baffling nature of assigning value – both societal and monetary – to art was touched upon in a few episodes, but there’s so much more to explore. Why didn’t they dig in? As an art major, I felt a little robbed we didn’t have at least a few funny or memorable moments of the characters expressing why a certain piece of art was important to them, or not important for that matter. I find it hard to believe that all the characters who worked in the museum wouldn’t weave this naturally into conversations all the time, because they would. Museum and gallery workers are especially gifted at exploring and expressing art in a way that is understandable to casual observers, or those without extensive art history knowledge, as that is a huge part of their job. It was clear the writers appreciated art but it baffled me they never once broached the subject of why its preservation and availability to the general public is important. “Just cause it is” feels like the answer we were given most often.
For example – the hysterical scene of our new director “cleaning up” the installation art and tossing it into the trash. I loved this! I laughed out loud. But why was there not a follow up scene where a character explained the value of such a piece of art? No one is going to explain installation art and how found objects can be used to the viewers? Really? We’re not going to get the artists statement about the piece’s meaning or what it’s trying to express? I found that to be an insanely lazy choice of the writers. It’s like… not finishing the joke. And it would only have taken a few seconds – this stuff doesn’t have to be full blown lecture, after all.
That general gripe out of the way, it was awesome to see so much art in this show. Both classic and contemporary – and some quickly created props too, which did a serviceable job as quick representation. Artists names were dropped left and right. International artists as well as Korean. It looked as if they filmed quite a few scenes in real art museums – both outside and inside. We may have Covid lockdowns to thank for availability of this option. I doubt any of the classical paintings were originals, but they did a good job of matching the size and framing at least. It was refreshing to have people talking about Modigliani and Basquiat, and not just Monet and Van Gogh.
I was delighted that they used the two leads as representations of both sides of the art coin – the curator vs the casual consumer. Fine art is generally only available to the rich, a luxury item and investment piece. Not only is it expensive to purchase, but it’s costly to insure and protect. There is also a certain amount of education required to appreciate and talk about art with others. Awareness of art movements and key artists, knowledge of availability and collections, understanding of history, symbolism, and even the mediums used are all important foundational elements of art appreciation. It was charming to have the fish out of water male lead stumbling through the art society, baffled and naïve. The art he had framed in his own home were prints and reproductions. We could have enjoyed some witty comments about commercial art, for example.
The contrast between the “new” rich and the “old money” is always a fun trope to explore. Most of this was explored subtly in this show, which I did appreciate. It was pretty obvious the newly rich family was far more impressed with “showy” wealth – favoring things that could immediately be identified as costing a lot of money to the causal observer. It’s a thin line, too. As the old money folks also favor ensuring their wealth is easy to identify, but incorporate more rules and subtleties – so that other old money will instantly recognize the cash behind it even though the common observer may not. Why be rich if no one knows it? (now that’s a Korean drama I would like to see, eh? I love secretly rich characters! We don’t get enough of those – and when we do it’s usually very complicated and off-putting when you start to think about it more… like in Itaewon Class).
I also liked how oblivious many of the old money characters were to the struggles of an average person. Their casual relationship with money and its availability was in stark contrast to those around them. Budgeting, the value of labor, how to make money without having money, these were unknown concepts to the wealthy Dali. She was used to living in a world where all you had to do was ask and it would be given to you. Even when she was “struggling” she did it beautifully, landing on her feet, showing up to work the next day still in designer dresses and perfectly curled hair, still managing an art museum that she had inherited, as if that doesn’t say it all. I was also so intrigued by the other rich daughter who endured physical abuse and considered it “the price” of her extravagant life. Again, they really waved us in the general direction of some interesting themes to explore or character arcs to develop, but then sort of shrugged their shoulders and decided against any heavy lifting.
Another thing I didn’t like was the actual… plot.
The romance was awesome… but the plot-plot was… eh.
I was bored to death by the property development scheme and shady corporate scandals. It’s not that this subject matter isn’t interesting – it just wasn’t interesting in this show. The more interesting plotline was how to regain the attention of the general public and save the art museum from… going out of business, basically. The struggle of getting people in the door and convincing them to return to the museum was far more intriguing than the whole corporate land-developing prospecting business. Museums, like libraries, have had to adapt to the changing needs of society. Diversifying the offerings, exploring alternative revenue streams, keeping up with changes in technology and trends, and remodeling your business strategies are vital to the arts. Adaptation is vital to all businesses. Nothing exists in a vacuum. What is wanted must be balanced by what is needed.
This could have easily been the entire focus of the show, providing enough conflict, tension, and action to carry the plotline. Instead the museum problems just seem to be magically solved, with a few hints at how. We could have had all the cooks take over the museum restaurant. We could have discovered one of the henchman was a secret artist with a garage full of wooden sculptures. We could have had Dali actually learn the concept of money. It would have been far more interesting to have her move in with one of the gallery workers instead of the cop, who was a pointless character. To have her realize that the people who came to work with her every day did not disappear into mansions at night, but kept working when they got home. That her father’s mismanagement of the museum had real and dire consequences for people who didn’t have an endless stash of designer clothes to pawn when things got rough. We could have still had the x-boyfriend who Dali could have turned to make all her troubles go away, without the nefarious psuedo-murder plotline. Just knowing that he could not stand up to his own prejudices and stand by her before is enough of a conflict for a love triangle. The whole story line about the girl who wasn’t adopted and was thus bitter she hadn’t lucked into great wealth had potential, but just felt oddly handled. As usual, the commentary about wealth and privilege was heaped with mixed messages… ah, the capitalist conundrum.
Again, though I am complaining a little, I really did enjoy the majority of this show. Dali was a refreshing heiress. She was genuinely kind, light hearted, and carefree. She was book smart rather than street smart, a specialist in her field. And she was gorgeous. Our handsome male lead, same thing. A genuinely sweet fellow, hard working, excelling in his chosen field. What’s not to love about these two? They were a matched set from the first episode.