Review – When the Camellia Blooms

When the Camellia Blooms stars perennial favorite Kong Hyo-Jin as a single mom struggling to make ends meet by opening a bar in a small fishing town. As the majority of the women in the town are small business owners, the men flock to the new bar as the one place where they can get drunk without worrying about the prying eyes of their wives and relatives. Unfortunately, this does nothing to help our mom’s popularity amongst the community, who are suspicious of a young single woman anyways.

This is one of those shows were the main antagonist is other people’s prejudices (I mean, sure there’s a serial killer but I’ll talk about that mess in the spoilers section). It’s a very blunt exploration into the prejudices, contradictions, and difficult natures of human beings. It wasn’t a melodramatic exploration of human connections, like Angel Eyes or Will it Snow for Christmas or Just Between Lovers. It wasn’t as cute and playful in its depiction of adults struggling to find love and fit in, like Dear Fair Lady Kong Shim/Beautiful Gong Shim, Flower I Am!, or Heart to Heart. It was just kinda… good. Without being great. It wasn’t anything new, and yet it was enjoyable. You’re not gonna stay up all night to finish this one, but you’ll probably stick around until the end. This show will cause you to hate people. And conversely, to love them a little too. 

This screenplay won Best Screenplay at both the KBS Awards (2019) and the Baeksang Awards (2020), so I had high expectations of a well-crafted drama full of memorable characters and a tightly laced plot. I dunno… I guess it was a weak year, cause if this is the best they’ve got, that’s not saying much.

This is not to say there weren’t moments of sparkling dialogue – cause there were a few: 

We also got this perfect line of dialogue:

Writer Im Sang-Choon also wrote Fight My Way, which I thought was better. Also not perfect, but definitely more enjoyable over-all. 

More often than not, When the Camellia Blooms felt like a drama that was supposed to be set in the 80s. Before cell-phones. Before late-stage capitalism took over the country. Before the internet. The behavior of everyone reeks of the old-fashioned stigmas of the 20th Century – the stigma of unmarried mothers, the ability to “disappear” in a small country, the weird detail that none of the women ever stepped foot in the bar they were so all so suspicious of to check on their husbands (as if ladies going into a bar was too scandalous to consider!), and the fact everyone commonly associated bar owners with prostitutes. How ostracized orphans were (by adults, too, and openly!). How the police work to solve crimes was also incredibly old fashioned and low-tech. How no one ever checked the internet or their phones for immediate information, entertainment, and social connections. I mean… video arcades were still a thing in this drama… yet at some point, a kid has a gameboy… I dunno, it was all over the board. So I assumed, for a while, it was set in the past… but then they ruined it with occasional references to Instagram and cell phones. So  either it was just a mess to begin with or the producers changed the setting at the last minute to accommodate more advertisers. I suspect it was the latter.

So… 

Overall Rating – 7.5/10. Cranky Locals Learn to Love the Town Outcast.

SPOILERS & MORE RAMBLINGS ON CHARACTERS FOLLOW

Continue reading

Review – Oh My Ghostess

Review – Oh My Ghostess

Can I just say now right now that my favorite thing about this cute little show was the epic girl-friendship between the professor the shaman?  How adorable were they?  I loved that we had two older women coming together as friends with no common ground whatsoever other than the fact they were both lonely and needed a buddy.  Sometimes that is all it takes.  Their friendship made the entire story better, like having home made icing on a cake instead of store bought.  Sure, we were gonna eat that cake regardless… but now it’s just so much yummier.

Oh My Ghostess was a cute, supernatural romance about a shy young girl who gets possessed by a horny extroverted ghost – which both makes her life better and worse.  The horny ghost is convinced if she can lose her virginity to man of vitality, then she will let go of the grudge keeping her from crossing over to the next world.  When that man of vitality happens to be the shy girl’s boss and secret crush, hilarity ensues.

“Oh, Chef!”

Park Bo-Young was so adorable and funny in this show – jumping back and forth between a wide eyed innocent and a shameless rambunctious hussy with ease – that’s great acting prowess, right there.  Cho Jung-Seok played the male lead, a persnickety chef who’s a bit of a narcissist but also a surprisingly sweet romantic at heart.  His character transformation over the show was as just as impressive as the female lead.  Throw in a bunch of playful restaurant coworkers, a gigantic cop with a little boy’s smile, the dead girl’s family, and a murder mystery or two… and you’ve got a nice way to spend sixteen hours.

It was a fun little romance and I can see why so many people have recommended this show over the years.  Add me to the list.  I recommend it too.

Overall Rating – 8/10.  Don’t Die A Virgin In Korea.