Kim Sun-Ah dramas are always highly anticipated – she’s been on pretty much a nonstop roll ever since Kim Sam Soon, and her last drama, City Hall (I almost wrote City Hunter, someone’s got that drama on her mind!) was a particular hit. After City Hall she took a two-year hiatus from dramas. This is also Lee Dong-wook’s return to dramas after his two-year stint in the military, so this drama features two huge stars both coming off hiatuses. Lee Dong-wook’s star doesn’t shine quite as brightly as Kim Sun-Ah’s – like her, he’s mostly famous for an earlier classic, My Girl, but his last drama before the military was 2009′s Partner, which drew very low ratings for its high-profile casting (a pity, because I loved that drama – very low-key, but so perfectly acted and great chemistry between Kim Hyun Joo and Lee Dong-wook). Nonetheless, he’s still a pretty big star, mostly for My Girl and La Dolce Vita.
Confession: I don’t really like Kim Sun Ah. In fact, I started out loving both Kim Sam-soon and City Hall, and ended up hating them with the passion of a thousand suns by about halfway through (especially the latter). After City Hall, I swore to myself that I’d never watch another Kim Sun Ah drama – she always plays the same character (one I dislike) and seems to have a knack for picking dramas I will hate.
But then she had to go and get cast with Lee Dong-wook, who is one of my top two actors along with Jang Hyuk. In fact, since laying claim to favored actors is popular on drama blogs (I know Javabeans has her Kang Ji Hwan), I’m just going to come right out and say it: Lee Dong-wook is MINE. Hands off – those melty brown eyes and crooked half-smile and perfect hands are alll mine.
Anyway, suffice to say I have mixed feelings about the casting, but on the positive side, both Kim Sun Ah and Lee Dong-wook have that intangible gift which some actors have of creating fiery chemistry with their co-stars, no matter who those co-stars might be. Kang Ji Hwan and Yoon Eun Hye both have it, particularly Yoon Eun Hye, and look what happened when they got paired together – sparks of almost never-before-seen intensity. So on that level at least I’m looking forward to this drama. Kim Sun Ah was the writer’s first choice for the role.
Back to the drama. The bad news is that it’s written by Noh Ji Sul, who wrote Dr. Champ. That drama was beautifully shot but the plot was distinctly lacking – unimaginative and predictable. If she follows that trend in this drama then it will be yet another vehicle unworthy of its gifted stars with their fiery chemistry (aka Lady Castle, Lie to Me, and too many other dramas).
The plot centers around Lee Yeon Jae (Kim Sun Ah), an ordinary office worker who finds out that she’d dying of a terminal disease (is it cancer or is it leukemia?? The wondering, it kills me). After she finds out, from what I can tell, she decides to live it up as much as she can before dying, which is how this drama can be billed as a romantic comedy despite being about a dying woman. Lee Dong Wook is the wealthy (of course) heir to a travel company who falls for her.
Eom Ki Joon plays Kim’s icy doctor who also falls for her, while Seo Hyo-rom is Lee’s upper-crust fiancee through an arranged marriage. Apparently her character once loved an ordinary man (she stooped to it? What is the blueblood class coming too??), only to realize that he was really after her money. She puts up a tough fight when her fiancee begins to fall for another woman.
I find the plot interesting because it seems to me that there’s been a trend in the past two years of dramas which take the basic plot of the classic romantic drama such as Lovers in Paris, and update it for the 21st century. They take a wealthy chaebol and a very poor woman, make them fall in love, and create a drama in which most of the plot is driven by class conflict. This is of course the plot of a very high percentage of dramas anyway, but the difference is that these dramas seem to be combining the high romantic tropes of the older classic dramas with the breezy, more openly sexual tone of modern romantic comedies. In this category I would put both Secret Garden and Lie to Me. Ji Woon and – in Secret Garden had a dynamic straight out of Winter Sonata or Lovers in Paris, only with much more overt physical chemistry. And the scene in Lie to Me where Ki-Joon treats – to a candlelit dinner in the ballroom of his hotel felt very much like a throwback to older dramas, right down to the cliched, overtly romantic dialogue (a scene which was actually, in my opinion, slightly at odds with the breezy, modern tone of the rest of the drama).
Scent of a Woman is a weekend drama, but fortunately only 16 episodes.