Review: My ID is Gangnam Beauty (2018)

My ID is Gangnam Beauty 2018

I usually don’t watch dramas starring the same actor or actress back-to-back. I like to take a break before seeing them play an entirely different character. However, my friend told me she had binge watched My ID is Gangnam Beauty and developed a crush on Cha Eun Woo, the lead actor, so I was curious even though I had just seen the lead actress, Im Soo Hyang, star in Graceful Family.

Overall Verdict: My ID is Gangnam Beauty is a thought-provoking drama that explores how society views beauty and how that affects people, from the way they see themselves to the way that others treat them. Although the main couple is sweet and easy to root for, I found the supporting characters to be this drama’s greatest strength.

Main Cast & Characters

I’m already a fan of Cha Eun Woo because I like K-pop boy group he’s in (ASTRO) and I was curious to see if he could also act. I thought he was alright and fit the character Do Kyung Suk well: the attractive but lonely son of a politician who is observant and astute but also standoffish and uncaring of social standing.

Interestingly enough, Im Soo Hyang is 29 to Cha Eun Woo’s 22. My ID is Gangnam Beauty is set at university so that was an interesting choice, but Im Soo Hyang pulled it off. Her character, Kang Mi Rae, is bullied throughout childhood for being ugly so prior to beginning college she gets plastic surgery done on her face.

Jo Woo Ri played the duality of the second female lead very well – innocent and likable but also observant and calculated. And last (but not least), Kwak Dong Yeon who I looooved in Love in the Moonlight plays the second male lead Yeon Woo Young. Woo Young is a senior classmate who is kind, calm, and sensible. He’s very likable but not to the point where you feel second lead syndrome (at least, not for me!).

Supporting Cast & Characters

Where do I begin? There are so many fun characters that make this drama feel real and relatable. There’s Mi Rae’s adorable parents, one of whom initially is unhappy with her undergoing plastic surgery. Mi Rae’s best friend and roommate Hyun Jung is an absolute delight but in the latter half of the drama, it feels like they cut back her storyline. I loved that she attends the same college as Mi Rae but studies a different field; they hang out together but aren’t always together, and they have each other’s backs.

There are a variety of different personalities at the university, both upperclassmen and first-year students like Mi Rae. There are a number of sexist male upperclassmen, some of whom try to be better and some who never change. I especially loved the variety in the girls – there’s one who is chubby, one who doesn’t dress in ways considered “feminine,” and a flirtatious girl who is initially after Kyung Suk but knows when to give up. Mi Rae makes friends with two female classmates, showing that there are good people out there and healthy friendships.

Despite Kyung Suk’s standoffish demeanor, he’s not entirely alone. His best friend is the laidback and exuberant Yoo Jin, played by Lee Tae Sun (who I’ve now got my eye on). I loved their friendship so much. Kyung Suk’s younger sister Kyung Hee was also a fun character, and I felt like her storyline was cut down towards the end as well.

Plot

My ID is Gangnam Beauty got off to a rocky start for me because it emphasized looks SO MUCH in the first episode. But that’s the point, it should make you uncomfortable to see how much appearances are valued by society. The pacing of the drama was great; a balance of heartfelt, emotional moments, and the fun and humor of young people entering adulthood.

The romance between Kyung Suk and Mi Rae is a big part of the drama, and it is QUITE a slow burn. I appreciate that there is never any question that the person Kyung Suk cares about is Mi Rae, so it’s not stressful in that aspect. Instead, the biggest obstacles they each have are themselves. For Kyung Suk, it’s his lack of social graces due to growing up so lonely. For Mi Rae, it’s the deeply-rooted issues of self-esteem and fear of what others think. It might be easy as a viewer to think that she should ‘just get over it’ but the many years of bullying led to serious mental health issues for Mi Rae.

Kyung Suk has had an opposite experience; his visuals stand out and attract attention no matter where he goes, even when he ignores it and does the opposite of encouraging it. It’s a lot of pressure for Mi Rae to stand beside Kyung Suk knowing that people will compare their looks and potentially decide she isn’t worthy of him.

Despite all of Kyung Suk’s good qualities, there were definitely moments where he was rude and controlling and I wish there had been some reflection on his part about his behavior. I wished that someone would call him out on it. This sort of behavior often feels romanticized in Asian dramas.

Kyung Suk’s mom’s storyline was excellent and offered the perspective of an older character, with more life experience, on ideals of beauty, motherhood, and abuse.

My last annoyance at this drama’s writing is that it ended with a storyline that didn’t focus on the two main characters. It felt like an overly dramatic change of genre and hijacked the final episode. All I ask for is the sweet and fluffy final episode that we’ve earned!!!

Final Thoughts

Most of the time I find dramas too long, and 16-episode k-dramas are a nice change of pace. In this case, I actually wished the drama was longer so that the storylines of the side characters could be fleshed out more. There were so many great threads that were started but abruptly concluded. Overall, I still recommend giving this drama a try!

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Review: Graceful Family (2019)

Graceful Family 2019

I haven’t watched a Korean drama in a while, and Graceful Family seemed like the dark and intense mystery-thriller drama I was looking for. I watched it on Viki with English subtitles, and actually watched it as it aired. I rarely do this because I don’t like waiting every week for new episodes.

While Graceful Family started out strong, I lost interest at around episode 11. Since there are only 16 episodes in total, I powered through to the end. Unfortunately, it never won back my interest. The best part of this drama was Im Soo Hyang, who skillfully plays the main character, Mo Seok Hee, showcasing both fierceness and vulnerability. Mo Seok Hee returns to Korea after being exiled to the U.S. 15 years ago when her mother was murdered. Her grandfather wants her to be his successor, but her father has other plans. Meanwhile, Mo Seok Hee teams up with lawyer Heo Yoon Do to find out who really murdered her mother.

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