WWATD?! Scent of a Woman
So many dramas, so little time. Aigoo!
It has been almost a week since Sunnie and I have gotten any solid drama watching in (other than the guilty pleasure of a couple of Coffee Prince reruns that are currently showing on MBC America), but one drama we did finish last week was Scent of a Woman.
Something I’ve always found a little funny is how many Korean dramas take their names from Western movies. There’s always some sort of tangential connection between the drama and the movie, but often it’s pretty tenuous. In this case, the drama is of course named for Al Pacino’s film about a suicidal blind man who recruits a poor teen on scholarship to an elite university to help him enjoy his last weekend before killing himself. In our kdrama Scent of a Woman, the connection is largely the tango, which was perhaps the most famous scene from Pacino movie. Also, while our main character, Lee Yeon Jae is not suicidal, she is diagnosed with cancer and proceeds to finally life on her terms while trying to complete her bucket list, the list of things she wants to check off before she dies.
Lee Yeon Jae is played brilliantly by Kim Sun Ah, who I haven’t seen much of, but Sunnie really felt this drama was by far her strongest performance yet. All drama watchers are familiar with the template of the ugly swan turned princess, but this is a melodrama, and while the series starts off with high jinks and silliness as her frumpy character is bullied, it quickly takes a darker turn, and Kim Sun Ah deftly manages the mood and makes you feel her frustration, anger, fear, and longing as she both tries to embrace her remaining life while also raging against the burden she’s given and the waste of her life to this point. She sheds a lot of tears in this drama, and she makes you feel every one of them.
The man she falls for is your typical Kdrama unattainable rich-kid, Jang Ji Wook, played by the fresh out of the army (and we mean, like day of the shooting fresh) Lee Dong Wook. The two meet in Japan, shenanigans ensue, and they fall in love. Lee Dong Wook is an interesting romantic lead as his sleepy eyed serenity has its own strange appeal. And while this series is a melodrama, with plenty of sadness to go around, Lee Dong Wook does his part in trying to break the melancholy by taking off his shirt off whenever possible. For a while there, I was thinking I had found a new drinking game for my evening soju – take a shot every Lee Dong Wook shower scene! In all seriousness, he does a nice job playing a sullen (and slightly damaged) man sleep walking through life until he is captured by Lee Yeon Jae’s new found passion.
Seo Hyo Rim plays Ji Wook’s tyrannical chaebol fiance, who has it in for Yeon Jae from the beginning. She also has reasons in her past to be damaged, but is so darn mean, it’s hard to sympathize with her even though you are reminded of how she has been mistreated. She certainly does have an arc over the course of the series, but for most of it, she is focused on raising your ire as she acts entitled and vengeful.
Rounding out the leads are Yeon Jae’s doctor, Chae Eun Suk, played by Eom Ki Joon. We just saw Ki Joon in Dream High as the idealistic teacher. He plays a much darker role here, and it suits him much better. Eun Suk is a robot doctor in the cancer ward, renowned for his lack of compassion and empathy. His clinical detachment and even hostility towards his patients makes him a much more interesting character for Ki Joon than the affable but shallow teacher role of Dream High. Eun Suk and Yeon Jae were classmates when they were young, and just as Yeon Jae’s passion and her underlying decency and sorrow pull in Ji Wook, they also crack Eun Suk’s hard exterior and his journey over the series, while not necessarily surprising is rewarding and very well played.
I also have to mention Kim Hye Ok, who plays Yeon Jae’s childish and petulant mother. Kept in the dark about her daughter’s disease, she can be a pest to her daughter, but had one scene in particular that really moved me and was just superb.
Ultimately, Kim Sun Ah carries the drama with some breathtaking scenes that ensure the tears will flow. At times, the series seems to be chugging along towards an inevitable ending, but makes some interesting choices along the way. I won’t tell you how it does end, but I don’t know if I was fully satisfied by the ending. Of course, I’m not sure if there was a way to really reach satisfaction with this one. And I don’t want to make the series sound like it is overly heavy (although, the combination of it and Princess’ Man did weigh me down sometimes). Despite being a melodrama, it mixes in enough lightness and fond characters to not be a drag. What could have been a very cliche story does not seem cliche, and much of that is owed to the strength of the acting. The pacing was steady and I enjoyed it, and I’m not usually one to go looking for melodramas.
It also had some nice and a few surprisingly playful songs on its OST:
You Are So Beautiful
You & I: