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08 August 2020

K Drama Review: Full House (2004)

Full House was a big hit here in the Philippines. I saw some scenes although I did not watch the entire thing. The show was especially known for Song Hye Kyo's Three Bears song. 

A few months ago, Oppa and I were choosing between Full House and Descendants of the Sun when it was time for a SHK drama. I picked DOTS because I didn't really like Rain. I had no exposure to Song Joong Ki at that time. So I thought he'd be a better option than Rain. 

During the height of Full House's popularity in the Philippines, I recall that Rain even had an ad for Clear shampoo. 

Back then, I was perplexed why they got Rain as an endorser. I didn't find him that attractive. But I guess he must have been really popular at that time. 

So, yes, I was quite hesitant to watch Full House. First, I'm greatly suspicious of shows that became extremely popular. I refuse to be swayed by public opinion (stubborn, I know). Second, SHK has not been impressive so far. I know she's cute but her acting in the series I've watched left still a lot more to be desired. Third, Rain. 

It didn't help that I was tired on the night we watched the first episode so I was dozing off a number of times. I didn't know I was in for a surprise. :D

Story


The premise is quite simple. Popular actor Lee Young Jae (Rain) has been involved in a number of scandals. He's been in love with his childhood friend Kang Hye Won (Han Eun Jung), who was in love with their other friend, Yoo Min Hyuk (Kim Sung Soo).

Han Ji Eun (SHK), on the other, was an orphan who lived on her own in this huge house, which she calls Full House. Her parents died in an accident and she's been living by herself for a long time. She's a frustrated/budding/mediocre (depends on who's talking) online writer. She has two crazy friends who are married to each other, Dong Wook (Kang Do Han) and Hee Jin (Lee Young Eun). Dong Wook and Hee Jin are expecting a baby and they're bankrupt. They decided to scam Ji Eun by sending her off to a trip to Shanghai and while she was gone, they sold her house. 

Young Jae and Ji Eun fortuitously end up sitting beside each other on the plane to Shanghai. And they stay in the same hotel too. Contrary to her friends' claims that she was on an all-expenses paid trip, Ji Eun actually had to pay for everything. And since she didn't have any money, she had to borrow money from Young Jae. 

Upon her return to Korea, Ji Eun finds out that Full House has been sold. And the buyer was, ta-da, Young Jae. Since she had nowhere to go, Ji Eun ends up working as Young Jae's housekeeper. 

During one party, Hye Won was trying to seduce Min Hyuk. Although he was a bit of an ass, Min Hyuk was at least honest enough to tell Hye Won that he didn't like her. He told her to to go Young Jae instead because the latter has always loved Hye Won. Hye Won went crazy and she confronted Young Jae to ask if he indeed loved her. Young Jae was put on the spot and probably to spite Hye Won, he announced in front of everyone that he was in love with...Ji Eun, who was there as a gatecrasher. 

Young Jae convinced Ji Eun to enter into a contract marriage with him. They agreed to get married then divorce in six months. After which, Ji Eun would get back Full House. 

The story revolves around the push-pull / hot-cold relationship between Young Jae and Ji Eun. 

The Bad

Let me start off with the bad stuff because the way I felt about this show evolved as the story progressed.  

Probably the craziest storyline in this drama was how Ji Eun's friends sold her house without her permission. Are Korean laws that lenient that properties can be sold by non-owners? Probably they presented some special power of attorney. But since this was not established, it really boggles the mind how they did it. 

It was also annoying that Ji Eun was so naive and gullible. She let her friends off the hook even if they repeatedly scammed her. Yes, they were somehow instrumental in getting Young Jae and Ji Eun together. But must they really go unpunished (or even be rewarded) for all the crimes they've committed??

There were also some unexplained parts of the story. Ji Eun, who was now trying to date Min Hyuk to divert her attention from Young Jae, was supposed to go on a trip to Venice with Min Hyuk. Young Jae was supposed to move out of Full House on the day Ji Eun was leaving for Venice. However, that same night, Ji Eun went back home without any explanation as to why the trip didn't push through. I would have let this pass had it not been pivotal in making Young Jae realize that he really loved Ji Eun and that Ji Eun cared for him too. 

The other thing I didn't like about the show was how formulaic it was. I guess this is a common problem for older K dramas. 

This show was very similar to Sam Soon, which was shown a year later. Oppa was even saying that Young Jae's character was totally interchangeable with Hyun Bin's in Sam Soon. A rich guy who is a jerk enters into a contract relationship with a poor girl to get rid of someone (Hyun Bin's mom in Sam Soon and Hye Won and other fans in Full House). There should be some money involved, of course, to make it appear that the girl is a gold digger. The guy is emotionally attached to another girl. The poor girl, being vulnerable, ends up falling in love with the jerk. She endures all the verbal abuse - the yelling, the insults, the condescending remarks. She sticks with the guy, hoping that her feelings will be reciprocated. Then the girl gets tired of waiting and that's when the guy realizes his mistakes. The guy has a change of heart but it's too late. So now it's his turn to pursue the girl. In the end, they still get their happily ever after. The two shows were so alike that you even get similar scenes - street/sidewalk date and karaoke session. 

So yep, this show was quite predictable. But I was a bit more understanding given that this was created more than a decade ago. Now I'm curious if there's a K drama where the roles are reversed - rich girl enters into a contract relationship with a poor guy. 

Another thing I didn't like about the show was how repetitive it was. Ji Eun would run away then she'll come back. Ji Eun would be mean while Young Jae would be nice, then it will be Young Jae's turn to be mean while Ji Eun would be nice. I can't remember how many times Ji Eun complained to Min Hyuk about Young Jae hurting her and making her wait. Now that I think about it, probably 90% of Ji Eun's scenes with Min Hyuk was about Young Jae. Min Hyuk must have liked her so much to endure all of that. It was also annoying that Ji Eun did the things Young Jae did to her in the beginning - kicking him out of the house, letting him sleep outside, etc. Maybe the show wanted to do a full circle but it just didn't work for me. 

The Bad Turned Good

Rain as Young Jae

As I mentioned earlier, I was not initially impressed with Rain. He was not your typical K drama hunk or boy next door. Although I did feel guilty about this judgment later on. I read an article where he said that he sang and danced well but he had a hard time getting a break because of his looks. He allegedly did not have what they call a second eyelid so they didn't think he'd be popular. Fortunately, a producer gambled on him and his talent overshadowed his looks. 

Adding to my looks issues, I also hated the loud clothes Young Jae wore. I had the same issue with Hyun Bin's wardrobe in Sam Soon. But Young Jae's was on a totally different level. I get it that he's an actor. But he even wore those bright colored stuff at home. Oppa was commenting that Young Jae did not seem to have normal clothes or at least clothes with toned down colors. 

But beyond the physical stuff, what really made me loathe Young Jae was how abusive he was towards Ji Eun. I get it that he did not love her. That they only had a contract marriage. But must he really insult her all the time? Is it not part of common decency to be respectful towards other people? The incessant use of condescending words like chicken, bird, rice cooker, vacuum, etc. were really annoying. And he was always shouting too. He was so immature, petty, greedy, and manipulative. A true blue jerk. Ji Eun was such a martyr for enduring all those abuses. I am glad that K dramas have evolved over time and and they're moving away from all these jerk leads. I don't want boys to feel empowered to abuse girls just because they seem so acceptable in K dramas. 

Oppa was wondering why Young Jae did not divorce Ji Eun right away if he didn't really like her and he wanted to be with Hye Won. Well, apart from stretching the story, I told Oppa that Young Jae is your typical guy - he loved Hye Won but he was beginning to develop feelings for Ji Eun. And being a guy, he refused to let go of either one. Typical greedy man who feeds his ego by having many girls pine over him. Oppa probably felt guilty of doing the same so he just stuffed my mouth with food to stop me from ranting. :D

Oppa said that Full House was a light show with no actual villain. The only villain he could point to was actually Young Jae, thanks to his rude attitude. But that's the reason why I put him in the good turned bad category. While I do not condone the terrible attitude he had, I liked how his character developed throughout the show. 

I was glad that there was some explanation on where his angst was coming from. I was totally weirded out during the first few episodes because I didn't understand why he was so angry. Then we find out that he had a younger sister who died and he resented the fact that his father who was a doctor failed to keep his promise of making his sister better. Add to that the stress that showbiz caused him. Now at least we know why he's acting that way. 

Although he was greedy in the beginning, he did not hang on to Hye Won when it became clear to him that he did like Ji Eun. And as Hye Won explained to Ji Eun, Young Jae was never good in expressing himself. He often tried to conceal his feelings and expressed them either through teasing or anger. Deep inside, he was just a lonely guy who wanted to be loved. He pushed Ji Eun to her limits and the fact that she still chose to be beside him despite all those hardships made him realize she was really the one for him all along. 

Young Jae won me over when he started seriously pursuing Ji Eun. Doing all those stuff must have been very difficult for him. And realizing that the first step in protecting her was letting her go was a very mature and manly thing for him to do. 

As for Rain, I admit that he's won me over too. A friend said Rain was okay in Full House and if I did not appreciate how he looked, I can always focus on his dancing and his abs. But I finally saw the light. Yes, Rain might not be as stunning as my other oppas. But he's actually charming. He handled the funny, jerk, and angry scenes really well. And while he did look a bit constipated doing the serious and drama scenes, I would still give him a passing mark for trying. 

Hye Won

If Oppa considered Young Jae as the villain, for me it was Hye Won. I found her just as greedy and manipulative as Young Jae. She wanted Min Hyuk. But when Young Jae married Ji Eun, she did not want to let go of Young Jae either. 

Looking back, however, had it not been for her tantrum at that party, Young Jae might not have married Ji Eun. Although Young Jae might have eventually fallen in love with Ji Eun since they were living together anyway, we can say that Hye Won sped things up for them. 

Hye Won redeemed herself in the end. She told Young Jae to run after Ji Eun who was leaving for Venice with Min Hyuk. She also knew how to pay her debts. Ji Eun previously told her that Young Jae was in love with Hye Won. Hye Won returned the favor later on by telling Ji Eun that Young Jae was actually in love with Ji Eun. 

Side note, Oppa says Hye Won looks like Susan Africa, a Filipina actress. 

The Good

Song Hye Kyo as Ji Eun

If you read my reviews of past SHK dramas, you would probably know that I'm not a big SHK fan. Oppa was complaining about how negative my review was of SHK in Encounter

Physically, yes, I find her really cute. She looks so clean, flawless,  and perfect - pretty much like a girl version of Park Bo Gum. 

Acting-wise, however, I don't think she's as good as Son Ye Jin. But Full House showed me SHK's strength as an actress - the cutesy, gullible character. We saw some of this in Worlds Within and DOTS. But she was full on cute here. 

My most favorite was her Three Bears song:

Full House also highlighted that SHK can handle light drama. Her drama skills are comparable to Hyun Bin's. They're both okay when they cry silently but when they start bawling, that's when things get a bit awkward. Over-all, SHK did a splendid job as Ji Eun.

As for Ji Eun's character, it was frustrating that she endured all those verbal abuse from Young Jae. I just wanted her to really leave him so he'll realize how valuable she actually was. But I guess that's love? 

I also found Ji Eun's character as a frustrated writer relatable. I know I'm a bad writer - not as creative or engaging as Oppa or my brother. Memories of almost flunking writing classes came back to me as I saw Ji Eun struggle with getting a synopsis approved by Min Hyuk. I'm glad that things worked out for her, proving that sometimes, diligence trumps talent. 

If I met Ji Eun in real life, I would have probably been wary of her because she was just too positive. But since she lives in K drama land, I'll accept all that positivity. She still found reasons to smile even if her friends scammed her, she lost her house, and Young Jae was so mean to her. She really practiced aja, aja, fighting in her life. 

I would say this is the best SHK and SHK character I've seen so far. 

The House

I absolutely loved the house. It was near the sea, so huge, and bright. It had lots of windows too. It was built especially for the show. It was located in Sido Island in Incheon. It used to be a tourist attraction but it was apparently demolished around 2013. Tourists were complaining that it was not properly maintained but a typhoon eventually destroyed it so it had to be demolished. :(

Oppa and I were daydreaming about building a house like the Full House and ideally, it should be by the sea too. However, after learning about what happened to the real Full House, I guess that won't be practical. :D

Ji Eun and Young Jae

SHK and Rain's chemistry was not evident in the beginning. But they grew on me as the show progressed. They were cute, funny, and annoying. If I ignore the verbal abuse, they can actually be a likeable couple. Even their petty arguments were adorable. 

I liked the use of the disguised confession pretty much like what Jung Hwan did in Reply 1988. Ji Eun asked for a divorce because she was already falling for Young Jae. But when Young Jae's manager asked Ji Eun to stay to preserve his dying career, she agreed and told Young Jae that she didn't really mean her confession. 

Episode 12 was especially heartbreaking when Young Jae was revealing his feelings to Ji Eun. Ji Eun's face lit up. But you know that a bomb was coming. You know there was a big BUT after all the nice things he was saying yet it was still very painful and heartbreaking when he actually said that he needed to go to Hye Won. 

Some of the Young Jae - Ji Eun moments I loved were those on the skating rink. I read somewhere that SHK used to be a figure skater. She looked really graceful on ice. 

I also liked how Young Jae proposed to Ji Eun in the tent then Ji Eun said dismissively that she can't marry him again because they were already married. 

Judgment

Yes, all the issues were so conveniently resolved in the end. Yet I still liked the show. It was really pleasantly surprising for me because I started out thinking I won't like it. I guess aside from the technicalities (of which I am not an authority), I also judge shows based on how they made me feel. And the mostly good vibes that Full House gave me definitely made up for the other things it lacked. 

Oppa says...it's a 3.4 that he will promote to a 3.8 because SHK was really pretty here. (Although if it were up to me, he would not get grading rights because he slept through most of the show. :D)

Noona says...it's a 4.