Coffee Prince Store #1: First Cup
Okay okay, so I’m totally behind on Air City (and Bad Couple, and soon to be Flowers For My Life…) but I promise I’ll get to it.
I wasn’t sure if I was going to be following COFFEE PRINCE (and I’m wary of jumping into things purely based on hype), but come on, with a name like that, how could I not be watching? It ain’t javabeans for nuthin’.
Today’s first episode (cutely labeled “First Cup” instead of the standard “Episode 1”) was cute and entertaining enough — if just for the sheer curiosity of watching one of Korea’s prettiest faces acting like a boy — to merit “breezy summer watch” status. Like a beach novel for drama addicts.
Off to a light and frothy start, I’m not sure Coffee Prince promises much profundity, but who needs to find deep meanings in everything? It doesn’t mean Coffee Prince can’t take a turn for the serious later on (Bad Couple surprised me with its recent developments), but I’m not going in expecting that.
Part of the charm is watching such a gorgeous girl as Yoon Eun Hye stripping away all the makeup and femininity and acting like a boy. Not just looking like one (which she does), but getting down the mannerisms — the careless swagger, the unpretentious lack of coy self-awareness that many girls have.
Plus, Korea loves to reward those who step outside of vanity (which is so strictly enforced by the media and the rabid fan culture) for the purpose of a role, like Samsoon did for Kim Sun Ah. Yoon Eun Hye’s already a superstar, but we’ll see if this earns her some serious acting cred to go with her mainstream popularity. Or maybe not, who knows.
Director Lee Yoon Jung 이윤정: “태릉선수촌” (Taereung National Village), “매직 파워 알콜” (Magic Power Alcohol”
Scriptwriters Lee Jung Ah and Jang Hyun Joo
Based on novel by Lee Sun Mi
Official site: http://www.imbc.com/broad/tv/drama/coffeeprince/index.html
Yoon Eun Hye 윤은혜 stars as Go Eun Chan
Gong Yoo 공유 is Choi Han Gyul
Lee Sun Kyun 이선균 as Choi Han Sung
Chae Jung An 채정안 as Han Yoo Joo, or Yu Ju if you prefer
EPISODE 1 SUMMARY
The story’s pretty simple: EUN CHAN is a hard-working young woman who looks (and acts) like a boy — so much so that people even question her when she insists she’s female. She works multiple jobs, delivering jjajangmyun (Chinese-style noodles) and milk, and teaching Taekwondo. She’s used to being mistaken for a boy, but doesn’t really seem to care. She’s also got a huge appetite.
HAN GYUL is a rich, conceited ladies’ man who’s got women throwing themselves at him left and right. His mother and grandmother are after him to marry and stop playing around with his life, although they too aren’t immune to his charm when he deflects with sweet words. His grandmother is the head of a large (food?) company and he’s been living off her money, and agrees to go on a matchmaking date to appease her. (Han Gyul’s a playboy, but has a soft spot for YU JU, who used to date his older cousin, HAN SUNG (Lee Sun Kyun of the swoony velvety voice.) That rounds out our main love rectangle.)
They briefly meet when Eun Chan delivers jjajangmyun to Han Gyul, and she’s shocked to see him flashing his family jewels at her from under his loosely draped towel. He doesn’t think much of it, but it flusters her. And just in case you’re wondering how much she actually saw, I think it’s safe to assume she saw plenty. And I’m not talking about the towel.
Eun Chan’s younger sister, EUN SAE, a pretty, feminine girl in her last year of high school, calls Eun Chan “oppa” (meaning brother, rather than “unni” for sister) and seems to regularly call Eun Chan to help when she’s being pestered by annoying guys.
This time (meeting at the run-down Coffee Prince cafe) it’s Min Yup bothering her, a somewhat coarse, uncouth guy who insists he loves Eun Sae. He assumes Eun Chan is Eun Sae’s boyfriend, and Eun Chan doesn’t bother correcting his misconception. She easily subdues the hot-tempered Min Yup, but agrees to a challenge — an eating contest. First person to finish five bowls of jjajangmyun wins; loser pays (with money and presumably also his pride).
It is truly one of the more disgusting things I’ve seen in my life:
Eun Sae makes it worse by mixing in fruit yogurt in Min Yup’s dish, and as he watches Eun Chan eat her radishes with yogurt, he can’t take it. He loses.
Their family’s big problem is money, with a mother who’s careless with funds and a general tight economy all around. On top of their house deposit needing to be paid (approximately $10,000 — leases are paid in a lump sum), their mother has thoughtlessly lost someone else’s expensive ring, and the person wants it back. Eun Chan tries to go around asking for employee loans or paycheck advances, but doesn’t get anywhere.
Things get worse when Eun Chan witnesses a purse-snatching and rushes to catch the thief, only to find it’s her sister’s not-boyfriend. Unfortunately, the victim is Yu Ju, who’s there with Han Gyul.
Eun Chan goes easy on Min Yup when he says he was going to help pay for her sister’s school fees; she instructs him under her breath to shove her aside and run away. He does, and she pretends to chase him but allows his escape.
Yu Ju is thankful for her purse’s return, but Han Gyul sees everything and assumes it was a con operation planned between Eun Chan and the thief. Still, he says he feels sorry for her and gives Eun Chan his card to contact him for reimbursement for her scooter, which was damaged in the process. As a result, she’s fired from her delivery job.
Eun Chan first encounters Han Sung when she greets his dog while delivering milk. On the other side of the fence, he hears her talk affectionately with the dog (and this is how he knows that Eun Chan is female, since she refers to herself as a girl). Curious, he goes out to see her as she bicycles away.
He is, meanwhile, nursing a still-wounded heart over Yu Ju, whom we can assume dumped him in some cold and callous way, judging from the way he can barely stand to look at her. I just hope she didn’t leave him to go off and treat her terminal cancer in the States and is now back to win him over again.
Han Sung and Eun Chan officially meet when she takes another part-time job as a server at a wine bar. Han Sung recognizes her as the delivery girl, and in a thematically related conversation, Eun Chan learns his dog isn’t a girl, as she’d presumed, but a boy.
He’s adorable and I love him already. In fact, I like him so much I don’t know how they’re going to flip me over to Team Han Gyul, cuz Gong Yoo’s assy ego ain’t doing it for me.
Eun Chan reaaaally doesn’t want to ask Han Gyul for money (compensation for her bike repairs), but she doesn’t have many options. She agonizes between pride and money, money and pride… and finally decides that pride won’t feed her.
She visits him, and he remarks what a girly face she’s got for a guy. She asks for the money, and he gives her a hard time, insinuating she’s a scammer. When he tries to remove her by force, they end up on a heap on the floor… leading to the misconception that both are gay by the girl who sees them there.
Then, he insults her parents (for not raising her properly), which hugely offends her. She demands an apology, and when he doesn’t respond, she follows him all the way to his blind date. Or rather, his string of six blind dates, all with equally crazy or weird women. She pesters him all day for an apology.
(The sign reads: “Apologize, punk!”)
She follows him into the men’s room, demanding an apology and compensation. She wonders if he’s really gay, which seems to spark an idea in his mind. And he surprises her by looking at her closely and asking: “Want to play my boyfriend?”
KDRAMA CLICHE WATCH
- Poor, struggling lead female…
- …who is good-hearted enough to take care of her family…
- …because a parent is depicted as less than fully competent of doing so herself…
- …with a father out of the picture (I presume deceased)…
- …working multiple jobs to make ends meet…
- …who meets her Prince Charming in the form of a rich man who’s the inheritor of a family business…
- …whose cold, unsentimental heart will no doubt become thawed by our heroine…
- …and he becomes her boss…
- …and his close relative becomes the rival for her affections…
- …who will initially seem much more worthy of our heroine because he is accessible and kind…
- …but who harbors a deep scar from a previous romance…
- …with a beautiful woman who rounds out the love polygon when she comes back to reclaim his affections…
- …with the added complication when the hero is in love with her…
And yet, I find all these cliches are made bearable by the simple, refreshing twist that one of the men thinks our heroine is a boy. And starts to question his own sexuality when he feels attracted to her, not knowing she’s actually female. Let the games begin!