18 December 2020

K Drama Review: Warm and Cozy (2015)

We were intrigued with the cute title of this show. We were expecting something light and adorable to perfectly match its Warm and Cozy billing. Oppa was also curious about Kang So Ra and I loved Yoo Yeon Seok in Reply 1994. So we were quite excited to watch this one. And while it did not really meet our expectations story-wise, we were able to carry on, thanks to its actors. 

Plot


Warm and Cozy tells the story of Lee Jung Joo (Kang So Ra) who mistakenly thought that Baek Gun Woo (Yoo Yeon Seok) was her twin brother. She followed him to Jeju Island but the reunion was cut short when Jung Joo was told that they were not actually related. Several years later, the two meet again on their way to Jeju. The drama takes us through the journey of how Gun Woo and Jung Joo fight, annoy each other, and eventually fall in love with each other in the Warm and Cozy restaurant in the idyllic Sorang Village. 

The Quite Good

Yoo Yeon Seok as Gun Woo

I loved Yoo Yeon Seok's sincere and heartfelt performance as Chilbong in Reply 1994. I felt so bad for hm when he didn't get the girl in that show. So I was really happy to see him in a lead role because I knew things were going to end up well for him this time. 

Initially, it was cute to see him in a lighter, cockier, funnier, and more talkative role. Eventually, however, Gun Woo's immaturity, pettiness, lies, and manipulativeness wore me down. A few of these scenes would have probably been fine. But if he shows at least one repulsive attitude every episode, it can really get exhausting. I really hated how he would always lead Jung Joo on then leave her hanging without fully explaining what went wrong. Yes, he was a jerk, especially since we all know he genuinely cared for Jung Joo deep down. And while he did improve, I felt that the development was too slow, with a lot of episodes wasted on him being an asshole. 

Gun Woo did have his moments. He looked really cool and happy as a chef. I loved how he rescued Jung Joo from her colleagues. And how he gave money to Jung Joo's mom (Nam Hyeon Joo) without telling her so that she can still keep Warm and Cozy. And when he apologized to the haenyo to make sure that Jung Joo won't get a failing mark during her interview. 

I also loved how Gun Woo did not overreact when he found out that Jung Joo was not actually terminally ill. He was just glad and relieved that she was well. 


While I found Gun Woo's character problematic, I was generally fine with Yoo Yeon Seok. But I still prefer seeing him in roles like Chilbong's where he's more shy, reserved, and pensive. 

Kang So Ra as Jung Joo

I was initially neutral with Kang So Ra, especially during the pilot episode. I felt that she looked quite old to play the role of a high school student. She also seemed uncomfortable with the comedy scenes. There were moments when I felt that her movements were too orchestrated. But I was glad that she loosened up as the show progressed. 

Similar with Gun Woo, my problem was mostly with Jung Joo's character. She started out really confusing. She was struggling yet she spent all of her savings to fly to Jeju because she thought Gun Woo was her twin. She admitted stalking him on social media so given her situation, would it not have been more prudent for her to reach out to him online first? It was not even that clear during the pilot episode why she concluded that Gun Woo was her twin. Yes, there was a photo but I don't think that was enough proof to make that conclusion.  

If it were exhausting to see Gun Woo manipulate Jung Joo, it was also exhausting to see Jung Joo fall for Gun Woo's tricks over and over again. Sure, she was in love. But should we not also promote self-respect? At some points, her patience with Gun Woo was bordering on foolishness already. If Gun Woo led Jung Joo on, I felt that Jung Joo also enabled Gun Woo to be a jerk because he tolerated the things he did. 

Towards the end of the show, my feelings towards Kang So Ra evolved from neutral to okay. Like, I won't mind watching her other shows because I feel that she's a better actress and was merely limited by the material provided to her in this show. 

Gun Woo and Jung Joo


From the get go, I already felt that this pair's relationship was going to be problematic. Gun Woo was too mean, while Jung Joo was too meek. And what really spelled trouble for them was how they repeatedly refused to acknowledge how they truly felt. And how they were so bad at communicating with each other. The issue with Jung Joo's supposed illness should have been easily resolved had Gun Woo asked her directly about it. All the missed opportunities that they had could have been cleared up with a short and simple conversation. 

It was really mean of Gun Woo to play with Jung Joo's feelings. Can he seriously expect her to remember stuff that happened when she was drunk? And can he really blame her for refusing to believe him after he's led her on so many times? Did he really expect her to follow him blindly to wherever he wanted to go without laying the proper foundation for her to trust him fully? 

And while we should all be happy because they did end up with each other again, I was still slightly annoyed that even until the end, they were still lying to get back at each other. Although it was cute to see that baby nephew of Jung Joo, I felt that if they really wanted to start with a clean slate, they should have avoided repeating the mistakes that drove them apart in the past. 

Jung Jin Young as Jung Poong San

I loved the character of Poong San because he was instrumental in bringing Gun Woo and Jung Joo together. He made things happen for them when they were dilly-dallying about their feelings for each other. I loved how he always pushed Gun Woo to move faster lest the Mayor (Kim Sung Oh as Hwang Wook) beat him. That arm wrestling match with the Mayor where he convinced Gun Woo to go for it, was really hilarious. 

Song Jung Geun and Kim Hae Sil

Initially, I was indifferent towards the love story of Gun Woo's brother, Song Jung Geun (Lee Sung Jae), and Kim Hae Sil (Kim Hee Jung). There were even times when I felt weirded out with this storyline. I really could not enjoy all those supposedly dreamy scenes where Jung Geun imagined Hae Sil in front of him as a mermaid or while wearing her diving suit. I felt that they were quite old for those things. 

But they grew on us. Oppa loved how Jung Geun smoothly transitioned from a strict hotel owner to a lovesick puppy whenever he was with Hae Sil. And at some points, their love story was more enjoyable to watch than Gun Woo and Jung Joo's. I was glad that they ended up together and that they chose to stay with each other despite the odds. 

The Pilot Episode 

The pilot episode was engaging enough to convince us to watch the succeeding episodes. Oppa was quite disappointed because he was expecting something warmer and cozier. I was confused because the show seemed to assume that the viewers knew the back stories and the characters, like how Jung Joo assumed that Gun Woo was her twin. But I kept on watching because the show was funny enough to make me laugh (although not the gasping for breath kind of laugh) and I was really hoping that the characters would develop. 

It was also nice to see Ko Gyung Po of Reply 1988 in a cameo as Jung Joo's brother. For a moment there, it felt like a Reply series crossover. 

Jeju Island 

If I were to pick my most my favorite character in the show, it would have to be Jeju Island. 

The place just looks so bright and picturesque. 

It's as if you can't have any bad shots or views when you're filming in this place. 

I also loved how the show featured the haenyos or the women divers in Jeju who dive to harvest sea creatures. I liked how their story was weaved into the main story seamlessly. 

The Bad

The Mayor

I was not that happy with the Mayor's character. He first started to annoy me in the initial episodes when he kept on asking if Jung Joo was an idiot because he was frustrated that she would not do as he says. I also found it creepy that he would always show up unannounced. Yes, he was the mayor, but I got the impression that he was always following Jung Joo around. 

And while he did try to be funny, I felt that he was overacting most of the time. It didn't help either that he lied to Jung Joo about that night when Gun Woo picked her up when she was drunk. While he did redeem himself when he helped Gun Woo and Jung Joo get back together in the end, his character just didn't work out fo me. 

Hee Ra and Ji Won


I'm putting these two together because I felt their characters were redundant. Hee Ra (Ok Ji Young) was Gun Woo's elder sister. 

Ji Won (Seo Yi An) was Gun Woo's first love who kept leading him on only to break his heart repeatedly. 

Hee Ra and Ji Won both loved gossiping and speculating about the lives of other people. Towards the end of the show, Oppa even asked what Hee Ra's character was for. I would admit though that Ji Won's character was more evil because her lies caused a lot of misunderstandings between Gun Woo and Jung Joo. And it was appalling to see how Ji Won's character did not develop one bit. Until the very end, she was a  social climbing and gold digging brat. 

Story

I believe I've mentioned it a couple of times already but let me just say it one more time. The biggest problem I had with the show was how repetitive and circuitous it was. It was a never ending cycle of Gun Woo and Jung Joo planning to do things together then Gun Woo would see Ji Won and would totally forget about his plans with Jung Joo. That happened when they were buying stuff in the market, when they were supposed to have dinner at Warm and Cozy, and when they were going to buy Jung Joo's diving gear. It also happened when Gun Woo promised to see Jung Joo after he talks to his brother and he asked her not to leave the restaurant. But he leaves after making her wait so long when he sees her crying and being comforted by the Mayor. And they never confronted each other about these things. They would sweep things under the rug, ignore the other person, get angry on their own, and then pretend as if nothing bad happened. This was the theme of probably 75% of the show. 

I felt that the characters' refusal to communicate with each other and their preference for speculation about how the others feel were done deliberately to stretch the show. Everything could have been squeezed into a fewer number of episodes if only the characters communicated with each other. 

All these things made the show quite formulaic and it failed to set itself apart from the numerous K dramas out there. 

It also didn't help that the connection between Gun Woo and Jung Joo's parents was explained in a confusing manner. 

The Good - The Ending


While I thought that the show was a lost cause, it somehow managed to redeem itself with the ending. It tried its very best to close the loop on things. 

The Mayor is finally getting a love life, thanks to Hee Ra. It was also nice to see Son Ho Jun of Reply 1994 in a cameo as Ji Won's fiance. 

I loved how Hae Sil handled the revelation that Gun Woo's father (Choi Jae Sung as Jin Tae Yong) or Jung Geun's mother (Lee Hwi Hyang as Baek Se Young) probably caused the death of her husband. Yes, she was hurt, as she should be. But she chose to be forgiving, fully realizing that the children had nothing to do with the crimes committed by their parents. They were not even aware about the incident to begin with and they felt remorse even if they did not need to. I'm not sure if it's a cultural thing that children have to bear the burden of their ancestors' faults because Jung Geun and Gun Woo were genuinely concerned about this matter. Jung Geun even had to ask Gun Woo to leave Jeju and only gave him the green light to come back when his wife agreed to move to Japan. In any case, I was just glad that Hae Sil opted to be the bigger person. 

I also liked how Hae Sil used diving back for something that looks interesting while risking running out of air as an analogy for needing to find out the truth about who killed her husband even if it ends up hurting her or breaking up her marriage. I loved how she just wanted to confront the truth and not run away from it. 

I also liked how the show did not force Gun Woo and his father to reconcile. It would have been contrived if they actually made up. It was enough that they were able to resolve the confusion and that Gun Woo came to know that his father was not a bad man after all and probably, his only mistake was that he loved Gun Woo's mom so much. 

Over-all, I was pleased with how the show ended. It managed to give me the good vibes that I normally get when watching Korean rom-coms. I just really wish they were able to bring those feelings to their viewers throughout the entire show. 

Oppa says...3.4. 

Noona says...it's a 3.75, thanks to the ending. :) 




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