Thursday, January 15, 2015

Birth of a Beauty Korean Drama Review


Ohhhh, Birth of a Beauty, where do I even begin with you? Ugggggggggggggggggh. Even thinking about this review is making me feel bored and slightly grumpy.

And somehow giddy at the same time.

How is that even possible? Well, to answer that question, this drama is going to have to be reviewed in multiple parts.


The Obstacle of the Premise

Before we get into what happened with this drama, we need to talk about the elephant in the room, which isn't a thinly veiled fat joke about our heroine, but rather a reference to the questionable premise.

So here's the rundown: Sa Geum Ran (played by both Ha Jae Suk and Han Ye Seul) is an overweight married woman whose handsome husband cheats on her and then does other terrible things. In despair, Geum Ran turns to Han Tae Hee (Joo Sang Wook), a genius who helps transform her through drastic plastic surgery into Sara, the perfect woman. Then they try to get revenge and learn important life lessons or something.


By our powers combined....

I have heard a lot of people saying that they either didn't start the drama or quit early on because they found the premise distasteful and shallow. To be honest, I was right there with you. On paper, it sounds suspiciously similar to the movie 200 Pounds Beauty, which, to be honest, I hated. It was a jumbled mess of messages about body image that tried to preach a "be yourself" message while also saying that plastic surgery will cure all of your woes. I can see why people wouldn't want to watch that all over again for 21 episodes.

So, for all of my skepticism, how did Birth of a Beauty fare? 

I guess all I can really say is that I didn't feel like the premise became an obstacle to character development after the first handful of episodes. It's not like the series did anything unexpected with the premise (like Miss Korea did with beauty pageants), but it didn't totally fail, either. I really liked how they continuously included the initial Sa Geum Ran actress as a reminder that plastic surgery can't magically heal emotional wounds, and I'm sad that they forgot about her in the last stretch of the series.

It's funny that both 200 Pounds Beauty and Birth of a Beauty concluded with a friend wanting full-body plastic surgery. In the former, it was left as a funny (but not really) joke hanging at the end of the movie, and in the latter, it was used as a chance for Sara to pontificate (in a pretty heavy-handed and obvious way) about the importance of loving yourself. 

So no, I wouldn't say that people should automatically rule this drama out because of the premise.

Review 1: Episodes 1-14(ish)

On to the show itself!

It's no secret that I loved the pairing of Han Ye Seul and Joo Sang Wook, but it bears repeating just one more time. 

I. Love. This. Couple.

You had me at "couple's pajamas."

These two carried the show with a pleasant blend of chemistry and wit. Remember how I was talking about balanced K-drama relationships back in the day? Well, this is what I meant. With many K-dramas, I wonder why the lead couple wants to be together at all, and I especially wonder how they'll manage to stay together once the entire world isn't trying to keep them apart and making them fight for their "true love." Well, that wasn't the case here. The development of the relationship made it obvious that it was based in mutual respect, trust, and friendship. Instead of being noble idiots, they were open about their concerns and worked together. They fell in love because they enjoyed being around each other, and seeing how their offbeat personalities complimented each other made the series well worth watching in spite of some other glaring problems.

Now, let's talk about some of those glaring problems.

First of all, the entire plot was full of nonsense. I swear that my experience with this show constantly alternated between massive Liz Lemon eye rolls:

Via

...and giddiness at the hilarious/adorable stunts our leads pulled with each other:

For example, can we talk about that "psychological test" that Tae Hee took where they emailed him and said, "You're in love with Sara" and then he — THE SUPPOSED GENIUS OF THE OPERATION — re-reads that email with his computer facing said Sara?!?!?!?!?!?!!

No, let's not talk about it. It offends the logical part of my brain too much.

But thennnnnnn because of aforementioned love test, we get the fantastic seduction war pictured above, which was one of my favorite sequences. So do I forgive the love test or not?

Or, as another example, the absurd hypnotizing head contraption that helped prove that Han Tae Hee really loved Sa Geum Ran instead of Sara:


Can you forgive nonsense if it leads to cute things? Apparently I can!

Ok, so that then leads us to the villains. This is a classic case where the writers probably should have evaluated quality over quantity. I would much rather watch one interesting, well-developed villain than three boring, one-dimensional lead villains and a handful of minor villains. I think there was some potential for interesting emotional development with Han Min Hyuk and his traumatic childhood, but instead the writers were like "Bastard son? Murderer. Cheating husband? Murderer. Selfish mistress? Murderer. Other selfish mistress? Murderer! Welp, I think our work here is done for the day!"

50% of the scenes involved one or more characters making this exact face.

But, as I said before, the good outweighed the bad for me, until...

Review 2: Episodes 15-21

Sigh. I hate you, show. Allow me to quote myself from five minutes ago: "Instead of being noble idiots, they were open about their concerns and worked together. They fell in love because they enjoyed being around each other, and seeing how their offbeat personalities complimented each other made the series well worth watching."

All of that was true — until the writers realized that they were dealing with 20 episodes instead of 16, and then they got an episode extension on top of it, and they just threw in the towel. 

In the last 5-6 episodes, it's like the characters got amnesia, bu no one bothered to inform the audience. They forgot that they were really, really good about being open and honest with their concerns and decided to run from each other and trust murderers instead.

Han Tae Hee forgot that he was a "genius" and couldn't even notice very obvious clues about what was happening with Sara. Sara forgot that she used to be a judo champion who beat up a gang of men ten episodes earlier and suddenly couldn't even figure out how to break out of a wrist grab from Lee Kang Joon.



I know Lee Kang Joon is menacing and all, but come on. Just look at him. The man is clearly a sissy.

To be honest, I only made it through the last six episodes because I was determined to write this review, and I fast forwarded a lot of the villainous planning sessions just to get through it all. 

Conclusions

Birth of a Beauty and I are in a fight right now. I feel annoyed, but maybe that's because I semi-marathoned the last few episodes, and it was painfully boring and full of obnoxious cry faces. Then I look back at all of the good times we had, and I think that maybe we can overcome these obstacles and reconcile. But if anyone's going to undergo drastic cuts to make this relationship work, it's going to be the show, not me.

Where to watch Birth of a Beauty

19 comments:

  1. Birth of a Beauty is actually a remake of 200 Pounds Beauty, so that's why there are so many similarities. I haven't watched Birth, but I have seen 200, and I have mixed feelings about it. Take away the confusing message, and there's a lot of great stuff in that movie. I really did enjoy watching it. But like you said, the message is all over the place. They couldn't decide which side of the argument they wanted to root for, so they just rooted for all of them. Which didn't really work.

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  2. Thank you for this review! I couldn't stop laugh-crying as I read all my own thoughts in words. I am actually about 40 min from the end of episode 21 and have to wait about 6 more hours (when my sister comes home) to finish it.

    I'm glad you didn't spoil the ending with your review, but at this point I've been begging for it to end since sometime around episode 15. I think I said to my sister at least half a dozen times (per episode) "I have had enough of her stupidness! What happened to we can do ANYTHING if we work together?" My sister said I think as many times, "What part of 'He is my greatest enemy!' did she not understand?!?!?" I mean seriously? How do you trust the man that your almost-husband said was his greatest enemy. And not just trust him, but trust him more than EVERYBODY else? That's just plain CRAZY!

    I think the part that disappointed me the most was not involving Ji more. I really liked his character of liposuction specialist/psychiatrist/secretary/... Oh he wasn't the secretary too? The characters personalitlies and responsibilities seemed to be the same. And the hospital scene - well of course your brother would come, but where is the personal secretary that was taking care of you 24/7 for all the episodes right before you got smashed over the head and rushed to the hospital (Talk about major eye-rolling! Yowza!)? I liked that when he realizes at-the-very-end that his sister is nutso he says you have to take responsibility for what you've done, but I'm here. And I liked that Tae Hee pretty much said the same thing.

    I have to mention that even though I think it was too many episodes of angst, I am super relieved that they have an episode 21 because it hadn't loaded when I started watching the drama on Dramafever so I thought it was only 20 eps and then 2 minutes from the end of 20 my sister and I start spazzing-out that they CAN NOT end the drama this way. They even have this scene where the main couple are sitting at the table and it's the voice over Tae Hee talking about what they've learned and I thought "Omg-they-are-ending-it-right-here! Seriously, just put them in a hot tub and shoot them already!"

    Yay for that at least. There have been a FEW things that happened in the last 5 episodes that I'm glad we got to see - the stuff with her and her mom and a little bit of comeuppance for the baddies, but yeah way too many bad guys! I decided today I liked the drama when my oldest sister called me and said she'd seen we were watching it and was it any good! I told her she has to watch it and she can't quit at episode 14 and just watch the end (she would you know!).

    I feel like if I had to endure that miserable 5 episodes, so should everybody. And hopefully we will all reconcile with the drama and it will become a lovely memory for everyone that makes it through that hellish process of starting over with a new life and a new attitude just like our awesome hero Genius Tae Hee and Beautiful Sa Keum Ran aka "Beauty and the Brains" did!

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  3. Ahh, I suspected that the two were connected, but I was never sure if it was an official remake. That certainly explains it!

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  4. I said exactly the same things! Especially when Sara totally trusted her fiance's enemy. What kind of nonsense is that? Also, regarding the secretary, there were a few times where he told Sara something serious and then she ran away. Why wouldn't he pass that info on to Tae Hee? I wish they had pushed all of the closure up a few episodes and ended with 16 or even 18. I didn't have a sister around to make me watch it, so I had to give myself a couple of pep talks.

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  5. As always, great review. I still have a couple of episodes to suck up; the minute Sara stepped out of Min-Hyeok's car in her grown I tuned out of this show. It's like here we go with the trusting the enemy to "protect" the lover stuff again. Greatttttttt. At one point I was so confident in this couple.

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  6. Finished!!! Yay! Mark that off the list! Like you said they should have closed up shop at 16 eps or MAYBE 18. From ep 21 I decided, the villianesses learned squat! Her mother-in-law, the husband-stealer and the mistress-mom all continued to the end with a what-did-I-do-wrong/how-can-you-do-this-to-me attitude. At least the sisters came to the police station and acted remorseful or maybe just embarrased by their murderous and now soon to be incarcerated brother. Whatevs! At least it's over now!

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  7. Did you watch Delightful Girl Choon Hyang, too? If not, don't! Talk about taking sacrificing to save your lover to a whole new level! I can't even spell the sounds/words that I want to say in reaction to that whole premise.

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  8. I was curious about that one as I scrolled through Hulu. I will take your warning and PASS right through it. Don't stop to collect $200. Don't stop to go to jail. Nope. Passing right over that one now! LOL.

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  9. Don't even get me started on the sisters/mother in law. I was glad we barely saw them towards the end because I was so sick of them. But congrats on finishing! It takes effort!

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  10. Sara getting out of that car drove me craaaaaaaazy. Just skip to the last five minutes of the last episode, and you should feel perfectly satisfied. Nothing in between is important.

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  11. Right there with you! My biggest love early on what how much crap Sara DIDN'T take from her enemies. Where most leads would get snarked on by the mistress and be all, "You're right, I can't think of a come back. *cry*" Sara was all, "Okay, whatever, you're a loser and I'm going to crush you now." YES! Then, halfway through, she lost ALL of her kick butt-edness. NO. I was really hoping they would tie up the whole husband/mistress plot in the first few episodes and then focus on Min Hyuk as the big baddie to overcome in the second half. Dragging out the husband just made no sense. You've got him confessing on tape!!! HELLO. And why did Tae Hee keep trusting whatshername to take care of his grandmother when he KNEW what kind of person she was?! Strong start, dead end. P.S.-200 Pounds Beauty was the worst.

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  13. I'm so glad I found this site because I just completed birth of the beauty. Although the premise was a bit shaky I still appreciated the emotions along the journey and thought the acting was pretty good up until it just went too long. When it comes to ROM COM I'm pretty forgiving as long as I can buy into the main couple which I did. I powered through to the end because I thought it might be good but there were too many long close ups of the same ridiculous looking faces, hahahaha. Birth of a beauty was my first Korean drama so I loved it anyway. My first was actually coffeehouse but I watched episode one through three and then skipped to the end. Now I'm watching coffee prince which is totally awesome!

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  14. This drama is not so good....But I liked the evil witch....She's pretty...

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  15. First of all, I am one of those that actually started it, and quit after about episode 8. Not only for the things you already mentioned, but there was just so much going on and it was so fast paced, that I felt this train is soon going to derail, and they will forget why they are there. Now on to what I really wanna say:
    This drama, along with 200 Pounds Beauty, embraces and brainwashes us to believe every. single. obese. stereotype in existence. They make 200 pounds out to look like 1,000 pounds, that obese people just break things every time they turn around, and all they do is eat. Sara's insatiable appetite is supposed to be Sa Geum Ran's which makes it look like all plus sized people can clear out a buffet in one sitting. IT PISSES ME OFF! Just once can we have a drama where the plus sized woman lead role that finds love without changing her appearance. I have watched Ha Jae Sook in several dramas, and have seldom seen her playing a role that doesn't have her clenching and nibbling on something in every scene!

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  16. *spoiler alert! : Actually anyone who can say this is a remake of 200 Pound Beauty has not watched this drama. She didn't chose to change her looks out of vanity but to gain revenge against a husband that thought he killed her so he could marry the woman he was cheating on her with. I suggest with all dramas don't take others words, watch and judge for yourself. However I agree with the reviewer. If they had did this as a 16 episode drama instead of drawing it out with nonsense it would have been perfect.

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  17. Everything I was reading at the time this drama was airing seemed to be saying that it was a remake. You're right that the meat of the story was fundamentally different, but the bones were the same. Many remakes are not the same as the original that preceded it, but they are still considered remakes since they took the overall story from another source. If it isn't actually a remake, then hey, I was wrong.

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  18. I'm in the midst of watching episode 17,but I have to stop because it felt like my emotions are going to burst.
    What the heck is wrong with that girl, If you want to hide from anyone then GET LOST! why do you even have tell your fiance's greatest enemy your whereabouts.

    Logic behind which makes those persons villain is incomprehensible.They are just plain possessive.


    Guess I just have to endure the remaining episodes.




    ---
    btw, i uust love joo sang wooks eyebrow :P

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  19. I also find it boring. I just watched it 'cause first, Han Ye Seul is the prettiest hallyu star for me and I love seeing her face on TV. Second is because I fell in love with Joo Sang Wook after watching Cunning Single Lady. What a face really. I stopped at Ep.13 I guess.

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