Genre: Romantic Comedy, Chick lit.
Lead Actors: Son Ye Jin and Lee Min Ho
Anyways, so intro. Personal Taste, also known as Personal Preference and Gae In's Taste and 개인의 취향 is a 2010 South Korean drama that spans around 16 episodes of one hour each. I am not proud to say that despite being aware of this series existence for two whole years, I only got around to watching it this year. I think I was putting it off because there were always all those deadlines and exams and whatnots and I wanted anything that had Son Ye Jin (The Classic and A Moment To Remember girl) and Lee Min Ho (do I even give his intro? In short, the Boys Over Flowers and City Hunter guy) justice. Of course, when I did get around to watching it, I realised that the series is such a mood lifter that you can just watch it anytime!
I loved the series, not only because it has two of my favorite actors ever but also because it has been beautifully played out. I fell in love with everything--the music, the acting, the locations, the way the story unravels. And it is hilarious in places, heart-warming in others and even manages to make you shed a tear every now and then.
The story is basically this: The story's title character, Gae In lives alone in her family house Sanggonjae that was made by her architect dad who now lives in UK. Gae In, it seems, lives in constant fear of her dad, not because he is some psychopath but because he has always been distant with her ever since her mother's death and Gae In (who is in her late 20s when Personal Taste begins) is eager to make him proud (Robin Scherbatsky, anyone?). She is a furniture designer, or an aspiring one, who is messy, disorganised, a push-over but has is also naive and has the heart of gold. The usual. Oh, and she is also a lazy dresser.
The story begins with Gae In being dumped by her rich architectural firm heir boyfriend Chang Ryul and she later on finds that her best friend and roommate (or ex-best friend and ex-roommate) In Hee is marrying Chang Ryul in a lavish wedding ceremony the next day.
No, wait. That is not how the story begins, no. We do get a glimpse of Lee Min Ho as Jin Ho (and thank heavens) who is 1. organised, 2. an aspiring architect eager to revive his late dad's name, 3. devoted to his mom, 4. engaged to a whiny girl who he clearly doesn't care for, 5. is the arch enemy of Chang Ryul, 6. doesn't like Gae In and 7. somehow unintentionally ends up giving Gae In the wrong signal that he is gay.
Anyways, so both Chang Ryul's company and Jin Ho's company decide to fight for the a very important architectural project belonging to the Dam Art Center. Jin Ho finds out somehow that the Director of the Dam Art Gallery is a fan of some professor who once built a really cool house but then somehow, for some reason unknown, didn't let it be open for public viewing. The professor is now in UK and that mysterious house, unavailable to public, is now occupied by his daughter. Surprise, surprise, it is Gae In and her house Sanggonjae. Gae In, whose friend has load her house (she really is tooooo naive and forgiving), is in a big financial crunch and now that even In Hee has moved out (duh), she needs a new roommate. Enters Jin Ho. Gae In takes him in because she really needs the money and because she still thinks Jin Ho is gay (very Dostana you think?) except that initially Jin Ho doesn't know that she thinks he is gay. Later on, however, he plays along because he realises that she won't let a hetrosexual guy live with her alone in the house. And.... they fall in love. I am not telling the entire story here because that'll just take too long!
Okay, time for a character list.. I wanted to start with Lee Min Ho because, you know, he is Lee Min Ho ('nuff said) but since this is also called 개인의 취향 or Gae In's Taste, I'll have to begin with Gae In, which isn't that much of a problem with me because it's played by Son Ye Jin.
Park Gae In
Son Ye Jin plays the title character of Park Gae In, and might I add, plays her beautifully. The make up people clearly have done a great job, making Son Ye Jin look almost plain (I doubt it's possible to make her look plain).
|They made Son Ye Jin look like this, imagine!|
She is in many ways a very cliched character and I suppose without the right actor to play her or the right script, concept, direction, Gae In would have just been a cliche herself, nice and ugly-duckling-turned-swan boring girl shoved into the background in her own story because of mundane-ness but thank heavens that she isn't! Gae In manages to be something new--i.e., real. Because I suppose that despite being that kind and giving, you realise that she is kind of pathetic and isn't kind to herself at all. And she makes a very realistic transition in both her appearance and character in these 16 episodes. I think one of the reasons I really liked Gae In's character was because I am a little like her except that I am not pretty (what? It's not my fault! I mean, THE Son Ye Jin plays her!) and I am definitely not kind. Or giving. Or modest so none of that is a lie or a weird mind trick to fish out compliments.
Jeon Jin Ho
|I luuurrrrrrve Lee Min Ho smiling/laughing/generally happy!|
I finally get to write about Lee Min Ho, yay! Apart from the fact that I adore him (okay, "adore" is a light word), he really is a good actor and I was very happy that did such a great job as Jeon Jin Ho. First of all, Jin Ho is very different from Gu Jun Pyo, he's more mature and way more focused. And intelligent in the sense that he, I am sure, would get his phrases right. Wait, more pictures of Lee Min Ho!!
Jin Ho is a twenty-something architect. His dad was an architect who used to work in before Chang Ryul's evil dad tricked him and stole his company and his house, leaving Jin Ho's family considerably poor. It is implied that Jin Ho's dad couldn't take the back-stabbing and died shortly. All that happens way before the events of Personal Taste begin and we know that Jin Ho and Chang Ryul (and their families) are sworn enemies. Jin Ho is a workaholic, mainly because it seems that he wants to bring back his dad's name in the architectural world, setting up a new firm called M-Constructions. If his mom is to be believed he has pushed himself extremely hard throughout his school and college dreams to achieve this goal and we later find out that he even let go of his college girlfriend because he was so work-driven. And of course, he is a neatness freak.
He lives with his mom (he is an only child), who he is very close to and his extremely whiny, irritating fiance also lives in their house (separate rooms, one can tell by his attitude). He doesn't care for the annoying fiance and clearly only agrees to put up with her because his mom wants him to.
He only cares about his work (and his mum), so much that he doesn't mind lying to Gae In just to move into Sanggonjae and steal the house's blueprints. But he is essentially a nice guys and falls in love with Gae In and doesn't, in fact, use his insider's information about Sanggonjae to win the Dam Art Gallery Project bid.
Lee Min Ho (*swoon*) does a brilliant job here! I don't even care if he's lying to Gae In, oh but that's probably because it's him! But really, he gives Jin Ho's character a depth that can easily be ignored (and would ruin the character).
Han Chang Ryul
And he lets go of Gae In (finally) right in the last episode. I do, however, still get the feeling that he wants Gae In for silly reasons like she's going out with his rival, he himself needs a rebound and because his dad wants him to. Chang Ryul is a much more mixed character than his dad and In Hee, showing glimpses of being a good guy once in a while but then sometimes rebounding to his mean self. Somewhere down the line, he agrees to "fight with bare wrists" and eventually when he does lose to Jin Ho, he isn't bitter about it either. He is someone I didn't like, obviously, but couldn't bring myself to out and out hate him many times as well.
Kim In Hee
Frankly, I didn't like her character much (read: at all). And no, it's not just because Kim In Hee is such a vile person, it's also because I don't like people like her. Oh, she's realistic alright. I've got no problems with Wang Ji Hye or her how she has played this character out, I just don't like In Hee, the character. She is supposed to Gae In's best friend since childhood and lives with her. Apparently, when she was in school, both her parents died and she had no where to go. That's when Gae In, her classmate, stepped in and offered her to stay at her place like her, almost like sisters. As they grew up, In Hee became popular among guys (even the guys that Gae In liked), being the "pretty one", as we see with the whole Chang Ryul episode. It almost seems to me that despite snubbing Gae In all her (In Hee's) life, and basically making Gae In feel that she herself is the pretty one, furthering Gae In's lack of self-confidence, it is she who is insecure of Gae In. I say this because it almost seems as if her sole aim in life is still the guy that Gae In seems even remotely interested in (despite being told that Jin Ho is gay, she relentlessly tries to seduce him just because she sees how close Gae In is with him).
Another reason why I am sure she's insecure of Gae In is that she even confronts Gae In, accusing her of giving sympathy to her as a child and being kind just because she wanted to show poor, orphan In Hee up. So yes, she's twisted. What is interesting is that while she claims to have vehemently hates Gae In all her life and to have, it would seem, to dedicate her life into stand Gae In up in return, Gae In has very different versions of their friendship. Despite the fact that In Hee stole her boyfriend, Gae In remembers small things about In Hee and her friendship that makes it difficult for Gae In to hate In Hee wholeheartedly. Gae In keeps on recounting little incidents to Jin Ho throughout the series about In Hee and herself like how when she, Gae In, would get into trouble with her dad, In Hee would step up and defend her. At one point, while Gae In is suffering from menstrual cramps (and poor Jin Ho is helpless and a teensy bit freaked out), Gae In tells him, "Every time I had period cramps, In Hee did this (massaging her tummy) for me. Mother's hand is medicine, Baby has a potbelly, she'd sing like that. Because we had times like that, even though I should hate her, so I can shake it off and get back up, I just can't hate her." I suppose all these memories are a bigger indication to what sort of a person Gae In is more than anything else.
Lee Young Sun and Noh Sang Jun
Okay, so Lee Young Sun is Gae In's other friend and apparently the only one who doesn't use Gae In (not counting Jin Ho and Do Bin). She's slightly older than Gae In, is married with a child and is sort of a maternal-plus-crazy-best-friend figure to Gae In. Jo Eun Ji is a-d-o-r-a-b-l-e as Young Sun! I have seen that many shows these days are laying emphasis on bromance, which I love, I do but I was so happy to see some real, healthy, happy female bonding. Such a relief to see that all people don't think that all the women basically go around each others' backs and bitch about each other and plot to ruin their friends (Oh, In Hee!). Gae In and Young Sun's friendship is true and strong and very sweet.
Sang Jun and Young Sun's chemistry is amazing and I love them for providing the dose of comic relief and fun.
Choi Do Bin
Much as I am a fan of Lee Min Ho and nothing, as far as I am concerned, beats him in this (or any other) show, I was really, really impressed with the character of Do Bin. Like many shows that deal with the topic of homosexuality, Personal Taste also brings in a gay character. This character is Dam Art Gallery's often melancholy but nice Director played by Ryoo Seung Ryong. He falls in love with Jin Ho (can't blame him, Jin Ho is played by Lee Min Ho after all) and his unrequited love for him, and how he deals with it with so much sophistication is especially touching when foiled against the likes of Chang Ryul and In Hee. What I really liked about the portrayal of Do Bin was that he doesn't wear flower patterns, super-loud colours, doesn't walk with a sway--in short, does none of the things as per body language that gay men supposed to do (which, funnily, Sang Jun, a heterosexual character pretending to be gay does). This just shows that gay people aren't anything strange or different or anything; they're people and their dressing sense need not depend on their sexual orientation.
I loved all the scenes where we see a beautiful friendship evolve between Do Bin and Gae In. He is such a sophisticated, and more importantly, a good human being who, sadly, thinks himself to be strange and is in constant search of acknowledgement of who is he and love. He definitely is my favorite character in Personal Taste (okay, apart from Jin Ho, but that's also partly because that's Lee Min Ho) and more often than not, I just want to give him a bear hug and tell him that it's okay to be "different". The only thing I wasn't happy about was that his is the only character that doesn't getting a happy ending, or even a closure.
Chung Ryul's Dad-- I hate him. He is evil personified and he has a creepy laugh. Hats off Ahn Suk Hwan for making me hate this character as much as I do. He is everything a villain is supposed to be--unscrupulous, cheater, doesn't care about his only son's happiness, bribes people, womaniser. And he remains that way till the very end.
Jin Ho's Mom-- First of all, she is pretty. I just had to say that. She's very close to her only son, Jin Ho, whom she loves a lot and blah blah. I just never understand two things: 1. How does she fail to see that her beloved son, who she wants to see happy and all that usual stuff (they're really close), doesn't care at all for that whiny fiance and is, in fact, irritated by her? Why force your son to be married to someone he claerly cannot stand if you love him that much and all? and 2. Why does she disapprove of Gae In just because she sees her with Chang Ryul? Honestly, that's not even a good reason.
Gae In's Dad-- He makes an appearance pretty much in the end and doesn't live upto my expectations. At all. Throughout the series, his image is built in our heads as this grumpy, perfectionist genius who is nearly (if not completely) impossible to please. Gae In starts shaking like she's seen a ghost the second her dad is mentioned in front of her. Everyone else talks about this almost-mythical Teacher Park as if he were a demi-god and values his opinion and skills in architecture as supreme. And we see a short man
(or perhaps I'm just measuring him in terms of Lee Min Ho's height, which is really tall) and while the shortness isn't the problem (I know lots of people who aren't tall but carry an aura), his personality is. The man doesn't look impressive, neither does he act it. He doesn't seem to have a sense of authority that is so important to this character and I am left disappointed.
Na Hye Mi and Kim Tae Hoon
These two characters, more than anything, are agents of comic relief and confusion. Choi Eun Seo plays the crazy younger fiance Hye Mi who whines and wears designer clothes and basically tries to suffocated a very disinterested Jin Ho. This she does to the extent of crashing a private party just because she thinks that it won't look nice if Jin Ho is date-less (which he isn't), and when Jin Ho tries to escort her off the premise, she doesn't hesitate in shedding mascara laden tears.
Im Seul Ong is so cute as Tae Hoon. He is in love with Hye Mi but feels he doesn't deserve her so he tries to make Jin Ho love her because he wants to see her happy. Awww, you say? Not really. Because I am sure if Jin Ho showed an once of interest in her, he'd just be jealous.
Okay, now it's time for the best scenes of Personal Taste according to me (well, obviously...this is my blog!). See, I love all scenes with Lee Min Ho in it but moving beyond that bit, the ones that I've listed are the ones that I really liked. Just a little note that when I say the "best scenes", I don't necessarily mean the happy ones.
1. Game Over!
I love this scene. I made me happy. It made my head reel. It made me giddy. Gae In, who is in love with Jin Ho but thinks he's gay, wants to take revenge from Chang Ryul by seducing him and dumping him (don't ask me; it's her plan!) agrees that when and if Jin Ho ever says "game over", she'll leave all pretense and revenge-taking. So when she is on a date with the ex, Jin Ho cannot stand any longer, says "game over", goes over to her and kisses her. The way I just said all that is highly romanticized. But the scene is actually really sweet.
2. The engagement scene in Episode 16... Because I don't want to ruin something, I won't tell you what it was.
3. Since I seem to be listing the cute moments of our protagonists, I shall also include the scene where Jin Ho Googles up how to relieve menstrual cramps when he sees Gae In in pain. Aww. What roommate does that for the other? I want one!
4. I enjoyed all the scenes which emphasize on the growing friendship between Do Bin and Gae In. And how desperately he wants to make her smile. Go Do Bin!
6. This is perhaps the most beautiful scene in this show. Jin Ho and Gae In (still thinking Jin Ho is gay) go over to a river bank and Gae In makes traces with her index finger on Jin Ho's back without telling him what she's doing. She is basically tracing out alphabets and she silently writes a wish saying that if Jin Ho is born again, could he please have the ability to love women in his next life? I love how she accepts her love for him but also accepts his inability to love her.
7. The scenes where Gae In dresses up like a guy to spend time with Jin Ho in an attempt to make him feel better.
8. I love the wooden apple created by Gae In as an apology to Jin Ho. I want an apple as well.
I think it's only fair to write a bit about the house Sanggonjae. It's a hanok style house and very pretty. I cannot imagine how difficult it would be to keep the place clean and empathise with Gae In's desire to keep it the way it is.
I loved most things about Personal Taste. The progression of the story is done very nicely and we can see how Jin Ho and Gae In's relationship evolve from being roommates to friends 1to being happily in love.
My ratings for Personal Taste: 9/10
Boys Over Flowers (has Lee Min Ho in the lead role)
Dae Jang Geum
Flower Boy Ramyun Shop
My Girlfriend is a Gumiho
Queen In Hyun's Man
My review on the film The Classic which has Son Ye Jin.