23 November 2020

K Drama Review: She Was Pretty (2015) 4.3 || 4.5

It was Oppa's turn to choose a drama. He initially picked Itaewon Class. Although that is on my to watch list, I heard from friends that the pilot episode was a super tearjerker. Since we just finished watching My Sassy Girl that afternoon (when I shed a lot of tears), I didn't think I was ready to cry even more. However, I do recognize that my date with Park Seo Joon is long overdue. So to compromise, I picked an early PSJ drama that seemed light enough. And that's how we ended up with She Was Pretty. 


She Was Pretty tells the story of two childhood friends, Ji Sung Joon (PSJ) and Kim Hye Jin (Hwang Jung Eum). Sung Joon used to be a fat and insecure boy who was bullied by other kids. Pretty Hye Jin was his protector. They had to part ways eventually when Sung Joon's family moved to the US. 

The friends lost touch until Sung Joon found Hye Jin's e-mail address. He sent her an e-mail saying he was going back to Korea. They set a meeting. This time, however, Hye Jin was no longer as flawless as she was before. She had frizzy, curly hair with red blotches on her cheeks. 

On the day of their meeting, Sung Joon mistook a pretty girl for Hye Jin. Humiliated, Hye Jin asked her gorgeous best friend, Min Ha Ri (Go Joon Hee), to pretend to be Hye Jin. Things got complicated, however, when Sung Joon pursued the fake Hye Jin and the real Hye Jin ended up as Sung Joon's office colleague. 

Things got more interesting with Hye Jin's other colleague, Kim Shin Hyuk (Choi Si Won of Super Junior), who pursued Hye Jin and who also knew her secret regarding Sung Joon. 

She Was Pretty takes us through the journey of how Sung Joon and Hye Jin finally find their way back to each other again. 

The Good Peppered with a Little Bit of Not So Good Stuff

Park Seo Joon as Sung Joon

Prior to this drama, our exposure to PSJ was limited to his cameos in Parasite and Record of Youth. I've heard a lot of good things about him. And after watching She Was Pretty, I would have to say that he is indeed as good as advertised. I believe this drama was his first lead role and he definitely did not disappoint both physically and talent-wise. 

I would have to admit that Sung Joon's character started horrible. He was very harsh towards Hye Jin. Whatever little mistake she made was always amplified whenever Sung Joon found out about it. I could not understand how Sung Joon could be so cruel towards Hye Jin, knowing that he himself was bullied in the past. Assuming that he probably had trust issues because of what happened to him, I don't think Hye Jin deserved that kind of treatment from Sung Joon because she was his subordinate and she never showed any form of aggression towards Sung Joon. He had no reason to fear that Hye Jin was like his bullies. The verbal abuse in the initial episodes were reminiscent of those old dramas in the 2000s. 

However, like all other doubtful characters in this drama, Sung Joon totally redeemed himself. I enjoyed watching his slow yet steady realization that Hye Jin was indeed special and that she greatly resembled his friend from the past whose hair was frizzy when wet and who shouted "Let's go!" whenever the light turned green at the crosswalk. So while it was an arduous journey to get there, everything was well worth it, culminating with that very powerful hug scene when Sung Joon thought Hye Jin got into an accident. 

I totally loved how realistic and natural Sung Joon's reactions were to the things that happened around him. I was very pleased with how he reacted when he found out the truth about Hye Jin's character. A typical K drama would have wasted at least one episode showing Sung Joon's character confused as to how he should deal with things. Predictable reaction would have been for him to get angry about being deceived. But I'm grateful that She Was Pretty deviated from this norm. Instead of anger, Sung Joon felt remorse for how he previously treated Hye Jin. 

I also felt Sung Joon's sincerity every time he confessed his feelings for Hye Jin. They were all heartfelt and they made me momentarily forget the nasty things he did. I loved how patient and understanding he was of Hye Jin - when she could not be with him yet due to Ha Ri and when she wanted to pursue her writing career. 

And although he acted like a total jerk at work most of the time, I liked how Sung Joon was actually a good person deep inside. He apologized to Ha Ri for not giving her time to explain her side. He respected Ten's privacy and refused to take advantage of his popularity just to make their magazine number one. He refused to accept his promotion, knowing that the magazine did not reach its goal through his own efforts. 

I also liked how Sung Joon genuinely loved Hye Jin's family. He lived with them even if Hye Jin was not staying there. And I felt his sincerity when he said he was grateful to be part of her family. 

As I mentioned above, PSJ is truly as good as advertised. He played both the jerk and sweet characters really well. And now, I understand why people are saying that other actors should get kissing tips from PSJ. :D

Hwang Jung Eum as Hye Jin

This was the first time we've heard of Hwang Jung Eum. And we were really impressed. 

I loved Hye Jin's transformation from the "I don't care" Hye Jin to the Most-esque one. But beyond her physical beauty, I would have to say that it was Hye Jin's attitude that really won me over. 

I loved her positivity. No, it was definitely not the toxic kind. She still showed her emotions - she cried, felt sad, got angry, showed pride. And that made her very human. But the great thing about her was how she always chose to bounce back afterwards. 

She was a very great friend and colleague too, especially to Ha Ri and Shin Hyuk. But I'll go into that later. 

And her love for her family was just amazing. She worked hard to provide for them. And she swallowed her pride because she wanted to get a new printer for her dad. 

I liked Hye Jin's journey into learning how to love and value herself. She started out insecure but she eventually had that sense of self worth. She learned how to appreciate her independence and how she needed to be pretty for herself. She chose to make Sung Joon wait for her as she rediscovered herself. And I especially loved what she said about everyone being capable of being heroes and/or lead stars in their own stories. We should never allow ourselves to be held back by our supporting character mentality. 

I also loved how despite her age (and long-lost-now-turned-newfound love), Hye Jin still chose to chase her dreams. I know that that is a luxury that cannot be enjoyed by everyone especially in a society like ours, but I still believe that it's important to keep that desire burning because someday it might still be possible to get it. 

Over all, Hwang Jung Eum was terrific. She hacked both the funny and the drama scenes really well. Although her character always overreacted (especially with Shin Hyuk), she was never overacting. That's a very difficult thing to do yet she was able to manage it. Her reactions all seemed so natural for her. It also helped a lot that she had great chemistry with both male leads. 

Sung Joon and Hye Jin 

Although Sung Joon and Hye Jin's relationship did not start out great, I loved how it naturally progressed later on. 

Sung Joon showed Hye Jin a photo of the God of Opportunity. He meant to convince her that she should grab all opportunities presented to her at work. However, I believe that this scene was also a gateway to the two of them admitting how they truly felt for each other. When something or someone is in front of you and you want it, you must not let it go. Otherwise, when it turns its back from you, you lose your chance to have it. 

I loved all of Sung Joon and Hye Jin's sweet moments together. Their love radiated and I felt it beyond my TV screen. Like that tender moment when Sung Joon had a panic attack in the middle of the road. 

And that time when they went to the beach for a business trip. 

Or that roller coaster ride of Hye Jin trying to find Sung Joon so she can finally tell him that they can be together that eventually ended in a hospital bed where they shared their first kiss. And the list goes on and on. 

But more than their swooney scenes, the great thing about Sung Joon and Hye Jin was how realistic and natural their relationship was. They spent a lot of time apart and finding each other. Any other K drama would have still found a way to make things even more complicated for the couple. However, I'm grateful that She Was Pretty refused to take that path. I liked how they acknowledged that after you've longed for someone for a really long time, it would be such a waste of time to still fight over petty stuff. She Was Pretty was proof that a story can still have conflicts that would not necessarily involve the couple breaking up. There can be conflict at work, with friends, etc. 

It was refreshing to see a couple honest with each other (except of course the initial part of the story when Hye Jin's identity was not yet revealed). I was very happy that they were so confident and secure in their love. Hye Jin told Shin Hyuk that she was sure about Sung Joon's feelings towards her even before he knew who she really was. 

Sung Joon never gave up on Hye Jin even if she was pushing him way. He knew she loved him and he patiently waited until she was ready to tell him why they can't be together. 

Sung Joon did not distance himself from Hye Jin when he was having trouble with the magazine. I found it very respectful of him that he even bothered to ask Hye Jin if he could have a night alone. 

I also loved how Hye Jin admitted that she wanted to stay to pursue her dream of becoming a fairytale author. And they did not break up even if they were in a long distance relationship. I think that's quite rare for a K drama. 

I loved how because they go way back and their relationship had such a deep and strong foundation, the little things never bothered them. 

And of course, who can forget that super heartfelt proposal by Sung Joon. That scene was proof that proposals don't need to be grand or in public. It can be something done in private and that won't make it any less special. What matters is that it's something that the two parties can both appreciate. 

Although their wedding was not shown in full, I still cried buckets of tears with their wedding scene. I was genuinely happy to see them get married. They both deserved it after all the things they went through to get there. 

And it was a great bonus to see Sung Joon and Hye Jin's daughter who greatly resembled Hye Jin. 

Go Joon Hee as Ha Ri

Go Joon Hee was perfect as Ha Ri. She was pretty and bubbly. 

As with Sung Joon's character, it took time before I warmed up to Ha Ri. I hated how she did not try hard enough not to fall for Sung Joon. And what made things worse was how she lied to Hye Jin about Sung Joon. And it was totally unforgivable that she took that puzzle piece that was so special to Sung Joon and Hye Jin and how she showed it to Sung Joon to assure him that she was really Hye Jin. 

Ha Ri's grief prior to the grand reveal of her identity was exhausting. She kept on holding back and I wished she just ended things sooner instead of prolonging everyone's agony. 

But she did redeem herself too. I was grateful that she gave her blessing for Hye Jin to be with Sung Joon. Hye Jin would probably not have the courage to confess her feelings for Sung Joon if that did not happen. 

I also liked how she exerted effort to have closure with Sung Joon. It would have been easier for her to just part ways with Hye Jin and be awkward about things. But fortunately, their friendship was so much deeper than that. They still tried their best to be genuinely happy for each other even if it broke their hearts. 

Ha Ri was really lucky that she had a great, selfless, and trusting friend like Hye Jin. Hye Jin truly cared for her that she was willing to give up her own love and happiness for her friend. 

I was also proud of how Ha Ri reinvented herself and asserted her independence from her dad. 

Go Joon Hee, although initially annoying as Ha Ri, proved that she is a great actress. I really felt her distress when she was still keeping things from Hye Jin. 

Choi Si Won as Kim Shin Hyuk/Ten

Just like most of the characters in this show, Shin Hyuk also started out annoying, especially during the comedy scenes where his acting was already bordering on overacting. But Choi Si Won handled the "sane" scenes quite well. He was even touching at times. 

While he was often silly, which earned him the nickname lunatic reporter, Shin Hyuk was actually very insightful and he deeply cared for the people around him. 

I loved how protective he was of Hye Jin, especially after finding out about Ha Ri's relationship with Sung Joon. And it was truly heartbreaking when he asked Hye Jin to care for him too. 

And while there were not a lot of them, I also enjoyed Shin Hyuk and Hye Jin's date scenes, especially the last one that they had before his identity was finally revealed. 

I liked how selfless Shin Hyuk was when he chose to reveal his identity to help the magazine reach the number one spot. There was nothing in it for him. He was even bound to lose a lot because of it. But because he cared for his colleagues and especially for Hye Jin, he did it anyway. It was truly touching that he dedicated his latest book to his best friend, Jackson, his pet name for Hye Jin. 

Story and Execution

The pilot episode was engaging, especially when Hye Jin chose to hide from Sung Joon. There were moments when the scenes tended to be overacted and the humor was almost slapstick (like the Chief Editor and Shin Hyuk) but as I mentioned above, they all had redeeming characteristics. 

The cast was awesome, especially the members of the editing team. They all helped make the show more fun. Special mention to Hye Jin's boss, Ms. Cha (Shin Dong Mi of Record of Youth), who silently looked out for Hye Jin. 

It was also nice that the show touched on anxiety and panic attacks. It humanized these conditions by showing that they can happen even to the best (and most confident looking) of us. 

I liked how the show used context to build up points. For instance, the Chief Editor was blabbing about X and Os, like when you're saying you want X but you actually want O. So her solution was when you're agonizing about making a decision, you should speak what's on our mind right away without thinking, because that's what you really want. That proved helpful later on when Shin Hyuk used it to make Sung Joon realize that he was confused about how he truly felt towards Hye Jin. 

I also loved the side story of how one of Hye Jin's colleague's car broke down. The colleague was late for a meeting and she was scolded by Sung Joon. That seemingly irrelevant scene was actually very essential because that led to Hye Jin being stranded and Sung Joon overcoming his trauma of driving in the rain to save Hye Jin, which then led to him finally confessing his feelings to Hye Jin. 

Even the build up to the grand reveal of the characters' identities was perfectly executed. The four main characters almost saw each other in an intersection, as if to signify that they were at the crossroads of their relationships. Fortunately, Shin Hyuk was able to divert Hye Jin's attention. I loved how doors were slowly closing down on Ha Ri such as when Hye Jin's sister almost revealed to Sung Joon that her sister worked with him. But it was great that they did not all find out about the truth at the same time. Shin Hyuk knew about it first. Then Hye Jin found out. Then Shin Hyuk told Ha Ri that Hye Jin already knew. Then Sung Joon finally knew the truth. 

As I mentioned above, it was refreshing to see characters who were honest about their feelings. Ha Ri confessed to Sung Joon. Sung Joon and Shin Hyuk confessed to Hye Jin. Other K dramas would have wasted episodes where characters would lie about how they truly felt. But She Was Pretty did not beat around the bush. And it was definitely great that the show did not force the second leads to be together. 

I also enjoyed how unpredictable the story was. The seemingly irrelevant side story about Ten was actually huge. And I thought the Chief Editor was Ten because she even gave an explanation about the name. And I thought that Shin Hyuk was the CEO's son because he lived in a hotel. There were surprises until the end. 

The ending was simple but that's what made it wonderful. I loved how the show cleaned up everyone's stories. We knew that Shin Hyuk was still writing novels and vagabonding. The finale brought out all the good feels that I got and loved while watching the show. 

And the music here was great too. Here are two of my favorites, You Don't Know Me and Thumping.

Oppa says...4.3.

Noona says...4.5.