Sunday, December 25, 2011

You’ve Fallen For Me: Episode 1

Another anticipated drama premiered today with MBC’s You’ve Fallen For Me, which I think got off to a rather uncertain start, tonally speaking, but found its feet by the hour’s end. The jury’s out on the romantic chemistry between the leads, but I find that there’s plenty of antagonistic chemistry. Sparks aplenty on that front, and that keeps me curious to see how they’ll transition from such strong opposing stances to romantic bliss.

The drama has been a buzz project for a couple of reasons: There’s the re-teaming of its You’re Beautiful stars, Park Shin-hye and Jung Yong-hwa, who had a loveline in that drama though they weren’t the ultimate pairing. She’s one of the more famous actresses of her age range, while Jung’s got a budding following of his own as part of idol band CN Blue, and together that practically ensures a rabid youthful fanbase.

But there’s also PD Pyo Min-soo at the helm, who’s done a number of dramas I respect, even if I haven’t been a fan of them all: Full House, Coffee House, and The World They Live In are a few highlights.

(Note: This drama has several names, originally going by Festival, then adopting the English title Heartstrings, which is the name you’ll want if watching at Dramafever. We’re using You’ve Fallen For Me since that’s what the Korean title means, and we’re purists like that.)


Jung Yong-hwa – “넌 내게 반했어” (You’ve Fallen For Me) from the drama’s soundtrack. [ Download ]


Park Shin-hye plays LEE KYU-WON, a good-natured if somewhat scattered student at a university of performing arts who’s majoring in Korean classical music, or gukak. She’s practically been bred for this path, having been raised by a stern, staunchly traditionalist grandfather who’s a famed master of pansori, a form of classical Korean singing. She’s got a close relationship with Grandpa, although we see a few cracks in the relationship as the episode progresses.

Kyu-won also practices as part of a four-member gukak group calling themselves Windflower, of which her cheery friend BO-WOON is also a member.

Applied-music student LEE SHIN (Jung Yong-hwa) seems like your typical arrogant bastard hero at first glance, walking around with a chip on his shoulder. As the vocalist of hot band The Stupid, he gets the lion’s share of fan adoration, more for his looks than for the music, which rankles him.

On the other hand, when he’s alone with family or closer friends, we see glimpses of a nicer, softer Shin. Too bad he doesn’t let that show to anybody outside his inner circle — though he gets enough attention by being a jerk that he’d probably be mobbed by admirers if he were actually, yunno, friendly.

KIM SEOK-HYUN (Song Chang-eui) is a hotshot musical director who’s earned accolades for a recent production on Broadway. I love that he’s conceited about it, in a good-natured sort of way, thinking himself a bigger star than he actually is. As though being famous for directing musicals will get him recognized on the street.

He’s brought in to direct the university’s big 100 year anniversary theatrical production, to the chagrin of his sunbae, who wanted the spot. This return, however, puts Seok-hyun into painful contact with his ex, JUNG YOON-SU (So Yi-hyun), a former ballerina who is now teaching at the school.

EPISODE 1: “An Unexpected Meeting With You”

We open in Jeju Island, not for any great narrative purpose other than to get our two lead characters in each other’s orbits, however unknowingly, before they have their official first meeting. Shin’s presence here is unexplained, while Kyu-won arrives with her crotchety grandfather for his participation in a cultural symposium involving classical Korean music.

Kyu-won’s first encounter with Shin isn’t terrible, though hardly warm ‘n fuzzy, either: She struggles with her suitcase on the bus, and he silently carries it on for her, without sparing her a glance or a friendly word. So he can be helpful, but maintains a cool distance.

The trip also highlights Grandpa’s stubbornness, because he gets up to leave almost as soon as he arrives; he’s incensed over the organizers’ suggestions to liven up this whole genre of gukak. Sure, it’s traditional — but that doesn’t mean it can’t change! Their liberal interpretation of the concept of “classical” gets his temper flaring, and he walks out.

Kyu-won’s next encounter with Shin is a lot more aggravating: Back at the Seoul campus of their university, she puts on a special gayageum performance for her class, where Shin blatantly sleeps in full view of the professor. The professor rouses him from his nap and pointedly asks what he thought of his classmate’s performance, and Kyu-won waits expectantly for a compliment. Until he replies, “It was good for sleeping.” Ouch.

Her impression of Shin takes a further dive when she arrives at a live music club — dragged along by Bo-woon to see the hottie band The Stupid — and overhears Shin coldly rejecting a girl with the callous comment, “I hate ugly girls.” He turns and sees Kyu-won standing there and asks if she’s going to confess her feelings for him, too — making her scoff, As if!

She joins her friends in the club and grumbles about the world-class bastard she just ran into, only to find everyone squealing when her bastard takes the stage and starts singing.

How ironic that the song is all about how he’s fallen for a girl and doesn’t have the courage to do anything about it. Psh. Like this boy’s ever lived a moment of insecurity about his romantic prowess. Then again, he could pretty much be singing about monkey poop and his adoring audience would find a way to see the romance in it.

After the show, Kyu-won’s friends prod her to make a request of the band, and she reluctantly broaches the topic with Shin. He foists her off on the drummer instead, though, and leaves her to talk it over with JUN-HEE (CN Blue’s drummer Kang Min-hyuk).

Despite that stoic exterior, Shin is a doting oppa to his little sister Jung-hyun. When she asks him to wish her classmate a happy birthday, for instance, he obliges her (and sends the crowd of schoolgirls into a squealfest).

Cutely, he smiles to see her collect her payment — about five bucks — from the birthday girl, amused to see his sister grifting her classmates. Ha. Smart girl.

The request Kyu-won had made of The Stupid is to participate in an event the Windflower girls are organizing, in order to raise funds for their professor’s hospital bills. On their own they’d struggle to find much of an audience, but if The Stupid were to share the stage with them, they could attract a large number of attendees.

It’s something Shin would have flatly turned down if he’d stuck around to hear the request, but because he’d left it to softhearted Jun-hee to handle, The Stupid finds themselves engaged to play the show. They can’t back out readily, either, because Kyu-won had paid them in advance, and the constantly hungry Jun-hee had managed to eat up most of the fee in meat. So, despite his preference to stay out of it, Shin reluctantly agrees.

Kyu-won comes home that night to find that Grandpa has raided her secret stash of CDs — sent by her father — and broken them.

A flashback reveals the source of the conflict, because Dad had wanted to pursue his own love of music (classical piano), only to have his unbending father put his foot down. Dad had wanted to take Kyu-won with him, but Grandpa had been emphatic in his intent to raise her in the ways of gukak, and refused to relinquish custody. (Not in a legal sense, but in a patriarchal, I-am-the-head-of-this-household-don’t-you-dare-disobey-me one.)

Dad had left, and has been sending Kyu-won CDs over the years. Interestingly, they’re of classical composers like Mozart — so it’s not like Dad went off to be a rock star, but that this is an East-vs.-West conflict more than it is an old-vs.-new one.

Kyu-won studies at the library near a sleeping Shin, and witnesses the return of the rejected girl — the one he’d called ugly — who is back to following him around like a lovesick admirer, despite his treatment of her. He dismisses her and leaves without the food basket she’d dropped off, so Kyu-won follows him out to tell him to take it, chiding him for his appearance-based prejudice.

He turns that right around on her: “You all do that too. Or do you like us because our performance is so awesome?” HA, he hates that he’s famous for his looks, which is great, given that his looks are the source of his popularity. Aw, the musician wants to be legit, but the fangirls won’t let him. Is that what we call first-world problems?

She points out that he could reject the girls nicely, but he says he gets sick and tired of being on the receiving end of sooooo many girls’ affections: “Though I’m sure a girl like you has no idea what that’s like.”

He warns her not to follow him, and leaves. Or tries to. Kyu-won huffs that she won’t, but trips over her shoelace and goes sprawling to the ground…accidentally grabbing his ankle on the way down.

Pffffft. Okay, drama, you got a good laugh out of me with that, because now she’s inadvertently made literal that metaphor about ankle-grabbing. It can mean merely holding someone back, but in the literal sense it’s the ultimate gesture of desperate begging, debasing yourself as low as you can (physically) go, saying, “If you won’t stay, I’ll drag you with me.”

He actually checks to make sure she’s okay, but she’s so mortified that she waves him away, while bystanders muse that she must’ve just gotten dumped.

Seok-hyun is clearly far from being over Yoon-su despite their six years apart, and has kept up a scrapbook following her career as a ballet and jazz dancer. At first she was on top of the dance world, but toward the end the headlines allude to her career facing jeopardy.

Yoon-su practices alone in her studio that night, demonstrating that injury had something to do with her shift from performing to teaching. She falls clutching her ankle — and suddenly, Shin is there at her side, fussing over her injury.

Apparently this isn’t the first time this has happened, because today he comes prepared with a medicinal spray. In stark contrast to the way he’s acted all episode, with Yoon-su he’s caring and attentive, all gentleness and concern.

Yoon-su, on the other hand, tries repeatedly to distance herself and to tell him to return home, but he ignores her obvious attempts to dismiss him and insists on walking her back. Finally, she tells him plainly to stop watching her in the studio, or waiting up for her, or worrying about her foot. And that he should turn his affections to a girl his age, rather than her.

Time for Jun-hee to fall in love crush for himself: He’s smitten at first sight when he comes across a student, Hee-joo (Woori), dancing in a studio. (I love that he finds her while on the search for his other great love, food.)

It’s cute that Jun-hee calls girls unnis (rather than noona) — even the ones who aren’t older than him. He even calls Shin “hyung” despite being the same age, because Shin buys him food. Hee. The unni thing is a slang usage, and makes him seem even more toothless than he already is, like our resident puppy mascot. (An additional character quirk: While in the band, he dolls up as a slick idol boy, but at school he adopts a shaggy, dorky, bumbling appearance.)

Slack-jawed at the sight of Hee-joo, he calls her his “Natasha” and promises to find her later — and then leaves to continue his interrupted quest for a snack.

The next time our lead couple runs across each other on campus, Kyu-won’s eyes him warily, and warns him not to miss the show.

She and the Windflowers practice together, choosing a gukak rendition of the Habanera song from Carmen — which is also the tune that The Stupids base their rock version on. What is with the Carmen fixation these days? It does create an interesting fusion effect, though, when the rock version is laid over the gukak version.

Shin invites Yoon-su to the show, and thinks back to the first time he’d seen her in practice, when he’d seen her falling while dancing in the studio.

He’d rushed to her side and told her to lean on him — meaning literally and figuratively — while she’d self-consciously covered the scar on her ankle, and broken down in tears in front of him.

As it happens, musical director Seok-hyun is buddies with the owner of the live music club (named Catharsis), and is invited to stay for the evening show. His friend assures him that it’ll be a lively crowd, with the idol boys The Stupid playing.

First up are the gukak ladies of Windflower, although really, everyone’s just here to see the pretty boys. They finish their set and the boys begin setting up their instruments, worried that they can’t get a hold of their lead singer.

They don’t know that Shin has been called by his sister, whose appendix has burst and who undergoes emergency surgery. His mother arrives while Jung-hyun is being operated on, and Shin checks the time, knowing that he’s in danger of missing the show. But when Mom asks if he’s got somewhere to be, he assures her that it’s not important, and stays.

You’d think he could bother to put in a simple phone call, because the natives are getting restless over at Catharsis. The impatient crowd grumbles at the wait and begins a chant for Stupid, which hilariously becomes a three-syllable word in the transliterated Korean. (Su-tu-pid!)

Feeling the pressure to act, Kyu-won takes the microphone and tells the band to begin playing.

Park Shin-hye – “사랑하게 되는 날” (The day we fall in love) [ Download ]

Her voice is pretty and the song melodic, and thankfully the performance quiets the crowd. For the moment. But when the show ends, the attendees file out while making disgruntled comments about false advertising.

Kyu-won’s so angry that all she says is, “I knew he was that kind of person anyway. There’s nothing to get disappointed about.”

On the other hand, the performance makes Seok-hyun sit up in interest. An idea springs into his head for his own show as he watches Kyu-won perform her classical music, and then take the mike for a pop song.

Afterward, he approaches her at the bus stop, hilariously coming off like an inadvertent pervy ajusshi with his attempts to engage her in conversation. She even checks with him (“You’re not some kind of pervert, right?”), and he starts to explain that he enjoyed her singing. But before he can get to his point, her bus arrives and she dashes off to deliver the concert proceeds to her professor in the hospital.

But no matter, since Seok-hyun knows enough details to call a friend and find out which hospital that is. He arrives and asks a nurse for the professor’s room — and hears with shock that she has died.

Outside, he sees the deceased’s family in mourning clothes, and Kyu-won paying her respects. She recognizes him in surprise, wondering what he’s doing here. She breaks down into tears as she admits that she was too late, and awkwardly, Seok-hyun comforts her as she cries.

Shin finds Jun-hee at school and gives him an envelope of money to repay the gukak girls for the missed performance. Jun-hee tells him to do it himself, and it’s adorable how Shin asks his friend to come with him, like he’s afraid to face them alone. But Jun-hee’s even more scared, having seen their anger firsthand — “especially Kyu-won unni.”

Shin knows it’s bad when Jun-hee even refuses his bribe of buying meat, and sends him off alone.

Shin finds Kyu-won in her department, practicing the gayageum, and tosses the envelope over to her. To his surprise, she doesn’t take it and says harshly that she doesn’t need “this measly money.”

With contempt, she asks, “You think you’re so great, huh? So you’ve got a decent face and some popularity, and that makes you feel like a big shot, doesn’t it? Well, I’ve heard your music.” She thumps her chest: “It didn’t resonate here even the tiniest bit, so screw off.”

She throws the money back at his feet, and he picks it back up and tries again. But he chooses the worst possible thing he could say, though unwittingly: “I understand how you feel, but take it. You said it’s for your professor’s hospital bill.”

He tosses the money back at her, but she glares at him, all indignation, and says she can’t fathom why he gets chased around by so many fans. “You’re despicable, unlucky, and nauseating — what’s so great about you?! Their eyes must be warped. Get lost, and don’t show up in front of me again!”

She takes up the money to throw at him again, only this time he grabs her wrist to stop her. I love this conflict, because as far as he’s concerned he was in the wrong, but surely doesn’t deserve this level of scorn. While Kyu-won — well, I’m entirely behind her outburst, even knowing that Shin had extenuating circumstances.

They sit there glaring at each other, and Shin challenges, “Do you want me to show you? Why everyone follows around such a despicable, unlucky, nauseating guy?”