A few things about You’re Beautiful:
- Trademark Hong sisters comedy. In my book, this is a good thing.
- Yes, it goes overboard a little. But because of the abundant sense of humor, this lands it in corny-awesome territory for me, not corny-embarrassing.
- Jang Geun-seok (and the rest of the group, actually) is perfectly cast.
- Park Shin-hye is ADORABLE. So is Lee Hong-ki.
- I think I have found my drama crack for the year.
SONG OF THE DAY
FT Island – “바래” (Wish). Gotta have an FT Island in honor of Hong-ki, right? [ Download ]
CHARACTERS & BACKGROUND
GO MI-NYEO (Park Shin-hye) is a young apprentice nun who has lived at a convent ever since she was brought there as an orphan. Because of her strict upbringing, Mi-nyeo speaks very formal Korean, which is doubly cute when placed in real-world situations because it’s so stilted. It’s like in Soulmate, where the Yu-jin character spoke in hyper-elevated honorifics, resulting in a quaint effect.
Despite her sweet nature and good intentions, Mi-nyeo constantly ends up causing trouble. You practically expect the nuns to burst out singing, “How do you solve a problem like Maria?” For instance, during mass (for which she was late), she spies a girl watching something on her mini TV player and nicely asks her to put it away. The brat ignores her and resists, and Mi-nyeo tries to pry the player out of the girl’s hands. This leads to a brief struggle, and the player skids out of her grasp and slides across the floor — but now that it’s unplugged, it blares loud pop music in the middle of service.
The girl was watching a concert of the country’s top idol group, A.N.JELL, a three-member boy band led by HWANG TAE-KYUNG (Jang Geun-seok).
Tae-kyung is surly and cynical, constantly walking around with a frown on his face. He seems to take his music very seriously, and there’s the hint that he may want to move away from the idol stuff and onto more thoughtful fare. In any case, his constant pessimism contrasts starkly with the good-natured personalities of his two bandmates.
We don’t know much about their backgrounds, but the character profile lists JEREMY (member of pop-rock band FT Island Lee Hong-ki) as a Korean-British gyopo. He’s also very outgoing, upbeat, and quirky. (He kind of reminds me of Heechul if he were crossed with Ha-rim (“My Chan!”) of Coffee Prince.) Very cute.
KANG SHIN-WOO (Jung Yong-hwa) is the more level-headed one, the calm middle ground between Jeremy’s energy and Tae-kyung’s emo-ism. He’s perceptive and kind.
The band name “A.N.JELL” plays off the “angel” motif, but is pronounced “ay-en-jell,” since their management company is called A.N. Agency. They are managed by AHN SUNG-CHAN (Jung Chan!).
EPISODE 1 RECAP
The problem with A.N.JELL is that Tae-kyung, their lead singer, is having issues with vocal health, and has been advised to refrain from live singing. He is pissed off to have been forced to lip-sync the concert and he doesn’t take kindly to this medical opinion, muttering, “What good is a singer who doesn’t sing?” (This is our first indication that despite his group’s fluffy image, he’s pretty serious about being a singer. I can respect that.)
Manager Ahn Sung-chan announces that the group cannot handle the tough vocals in their current state, and is therefore bringing in another vocalist — he’s found an exciting fourth member.
Mi-nyeo is relegated once again to cleaning chores in punishment for disrupting mass. As she cleans off a statue of David (covering it with a towel for modesty, LOL!), she is observed at a distance by MA HOON-YI (Kim In-kwon).
He follows Mi-nyeo as she takes a scooter out on an errand, and stops her. His behavior is odd — he stares at her face intently and murmurs things to himself like, “It looks so similar” — and creeps her out, so she knocks him down and flees.
Now realizing he has to make his case clear, he chases again, shouting out, “I’m here about Go Mi-nam! You know, your older twin brother!” Mi-nyeo finally stops when Hoon-yi tells her Mi-nam has been in an accident.
He introduces himself as Mi-nam’s manager, and gets down on his knees to beg her help: “Please stand in for Mi-nam!”
He explains that he only needs her to do one simple thing: Sign some papers. Her brother is out of commission but has just been given the chance of a lifetime, and they can’t let it slip away. They need to sign the contracts, and since Mi-nam can’t go in person, all she needs to do is sign for him.
This takes her to the A.N. Agency offices, where a crowd of fans camps out to get a glimpse of their idols. Some of them regard Mi-nyeo jealously, thinking her nun’s habit is a costume to get the group’s attention. They’ve all stuck to the angel motif, and sigh that she was more creative. The girl on the right is SAYURI (Friend, Our Legend‘s Bae Geu-rin), who I suspect will be hilariously funny as the fanatic fan-club president.
Just then, the idols make their appearance, sending the girls screaming toward their arriving van.
Rock star strut!
Enthralled, Mi-nyeo watches the trio walk in slo-mo, thinking to herself that she has found three real-life angels (to rival her statue garden). The guys each notice her as they pass — Tae-kyung with a sneer, Shin-woo with interest, and Jeremy with adorable willingness to sign her paper A.N.JELL fan.
Hoon-yi takes Mi-nyeo aside and gives her some clothing to put on for her brief impersonation. Timidly, she wears the clothing and is greeted enthusiastically by Sung-chan, who welcomes her to the group. She nervously signs the contract.
Tae-kyung bursts in and examines this unwanted new member with contempt. He jeers, “Are you so great?” He’s been told Mi-nam has a wonderful voice, but Tae-kyung won’t believe it until he has heard it for himself.
He grabs Mi-nyeo and drags her off to the adjacent studio, where his teammates are, and locks the door. (Managers Hoon-yi and Sung-chan chase after them and bang on the window to no avail.)
Tae-kyung thrusts some music at her and tells her to sing. It doesn’t matter if (s)he signs a hundred contracts; if (s)he doesn’t satisfy him, he will never accept him(her) as a member.
Unsettled, Mi-nyeo has to keep silent to avoid giving herself away, but Jeremy and Shin-woo find nothing wrong with the suggestion, and they wait expectantly.
Mi-nyeo tries to figure out what to do, and the longer she stands there silently, the more contemptuous Tae-kyung becomes. He takes her inaction for concession, and starts to tear up the contract —
— until suddenly everyone freezes at the sound of a high, pure voice. Mi-nyeo starts singing the religious choral selection “Panis Angelicus” (this song). Her voice is high and falsetto, but that’s sort of the point, given the whole group’s angel motif — her voice is certainly angelic. Even Tae-kyung has to recognize that it’s very good, and everyone gapes speechlessly.
Tae-kyung doesn’t admit defeat, but turns away wordlessly — it’s as much of a concession as you’re going to get out of him. Jeremy, the most outgoing of the bunch, calls her amazing and says (s)he gave him goosebumps. He says that Tae-kyung has accepted her, so they’re a team now.
Even Hoon-yi is wowed — looks like the vocal skills run in the family, since she’s just as good as Mi-nam. Mi-nyeo is relieved that the charade is over and is ready to go home, as she is leaving in a week’s time for Rome. She’s transferring to a convent there.
Hoon-yi is horrified — she can’t go! She has to impersonate Mi-nam for a month, and there’s an upcoming press conference on the weekend, too. When she declines, he bursts out, “Mi-nam cannot close his eyes!”
Now he spills the whole story, blaming himself — he had suggested that Mi-nam have minor cosmetic work done, but the doctor botched the surgery and now his eyes are messed up. He’s actually off in the States to get correctional surgery, and needs one month to recover.
She feels sorry, but sticks to her guns and refuses.
Back at the convent, the Mother Superior senses Mi-nyeo is feeling conflicted, and asks if something is wrong with Mi-nam. Mi-nyeo answers that she has helped as much as she can, but it’s her lot to be a nun — that’s God’s will.
The nun asks what her own will is, and Mi-nyeo doesn’t have a ready answer. She thinks and replies, “I’ve lived at the convent since I was very young, and I’ve never even thought about being something other than a nun like you.” The nun advises, “You have more time ahead of you to see more things, and think deeper thoughts.” Furthermore, she reminds Mi-nyeo that no human can be totally certain of God’s will.
It’s a nice conversation, sort of reminiscent of The Sound of Music, because Mi-nyeo is still young and the nun senses that this may not be her calling. I think Mi-nyeo has stayed at the convent out of habit more than religious conviction, and the nun reminds her that she has more living to do.
Still, Mi-nyeo is fixated on Rome, and heads to the airport the day before the press conference. The A.N.JELL guys are also at the airport (doing their Reservoir Dogs strut) to head to Japan for a one-day set of interviews.
Regarding their new member, Jeremy guesses, “Tae-kyung still seems to hate the idea, doesn’t he?” Shin-woo answers, “He hates everything anyway.”
Tae-kyung heads off to grab some coffee, and runs into Mi-nyeo. When he crouches to retrieve her fallen plane ticket (as she grabs his dropped mp3 player), she realizes who it is. Suddenly scared she will be found out, she dashes off before he can recognize her as the impostor.
Too bad Tae-kyung now has her plane ticket, and he follows her through the terminal to return it. Panicking, Mi-nyeo hides and remains out of sight, while Tae-kyung tries to spot her in the crowd. This is awkward for him, too, since he has to keep his face hidden to avoid drawing notice.
Unfortunately, she realizes belatedly that she has dropped her ticket and picked up his mp3 player. Furthermore, when Tae-kyung tells Shin-woo and Jeremy of his run-in, they agree that a nun’s ticket should be returned, and decide to look for her.
Thus when Mi-nyeo sees Shin-woo and Jeremy trying to approach her, she scampers away. She runs one way, then another, trying to keep Tae-kyung in her sights but out of everyone else’s view. She’s surrounded by persistent idol boys! (Ah, if only we all had such luck.)
She’s in quite the predicament and her flight time is approaching. Finally, Tae-kyung sees that the plane departure time has arrived, and gives up.
Mi-nyeo deflates. What now?
(This airport sequence is absurd and over-the-top, but in a good way. It did a great job with the suspense because I really thought she was going to succeed somehow — and it wasn’t until it was over that I remembered, “Oh yeah, she can’t succeed because then she’d have to go to Rome!”)
Sitting alone in the terminal, Mi-nyeo picks up Tae-kyung’s mp3 player and finds A.N.JELL music on it. She turns it on and listens to a nice ballad, featuring Tae-kyung’s voice.
Mi-nyeo sinks into sadness as she flashes back to her encounter with Hong-yi, who had asked desperately, “Do you know why Mi-nam wants to sing? It’s because he wanted to find his mother. He said he had to sing because if he did, your mother would come back!”
This brings back painful memories of growing up at the orphanage, where she and Mi-nam were mocked by the other kids as beggars for being abandoned by their mother. She had cried, “Are we really beggars?” Acting the big bro (in Korea, twins still observe birth order), Mi-nam had yelled, “No! They said our dad is a great musician, and our mom is a famous singer! If I become a famous singer too, I can find Mom!”
It’s surprisingly touching. Mi-nyeo sheds a tear and wonders, “Is this your will, too? Where should I go?”
Press conference day.
The reminder of Mi-nam’s motivation has made Mi-nyeo reconsider — she doesn’t want to impersonate her brother, but she understands that this is a very important dream to him, and if she can help, she will help. As the reporters arrive for the big reveal, Mi-nyeo puts away her nun’s habit and cuts her hair. She binds her chest and dons Mi-nam’s outfit, steeling her nerves for this transformation.
When her name is announced, she makes her grand entrance. (Tae-kyung, naturally, sulks.) At home, a glamorous woman watches this on television and drinks, saying dispassionately, “It’s that child. Does he really resemble me?”
And so, Mi-nyeo moves in to the mansion and marvels at its luxuries. Deciding to return Tae-kyung’s mp3 player, she sneaks into his lavish room and searches for a place to hide it (so he’ll think he just left it there).
Tae-kyung comes in unexpectedly, forcing her to sneak into the bathroom. He’s a neat freak and can tell someone’s been in his room, and heads suspiciously into the bathroom, where he finds Mi-nyeo. Nervous, she stammers and hits a button on the toilet, which spews water at her. She shrieks as water soaks her, and he asks sardonically, “Are you showering with the bidet?”
Annoyed, he lays out some ground rules: Don’t touch him. Don’t barge into his room uninvited. Don’t touch his things. Mi-nyeo apologizes and hurries away.
After she leaves, he checks out the toilet: “The bidet is more dangerous than I thought. I’d better be careful.”
Manager Sung-chan throws a party at a club to welcome Mi-nam to the group. Hoon-yi tries to keep the champagne away from her, but she tries it curiously and is soon drinking refill after refill. (I LOVE Tae-kyung’s angry pout; he’s such a grumpypants.)
By the time she stumbles to the bathroom, she’s totally wasted. As she staggers down the hall, she very cutely asks the wall, “Please stay still.”
Shin-woo finds her and suggests she unbutton her shirt, since she’s sweating. She panics and says no, so he suggests she get some air on the roof, then.
Mi-nyeo drunkenly makes her way to the roof, enjoying the fresh air. Of course, this is where Tae-kyung has retreated for some time to himself, and he doesn’t enjoy having his quiet time invaded. But he does step in to yank her away from the railing — it’s dangerous — and sees her gagging. He grabs a cup for her to vomit in, but it’s too small, so he yanks the flower out of a flowerpot and gives it to her.
Afterward, she feels a lot better and takes in more of the air, just as Jeremy and Shin-woo join them on the roof.
Jeremy comments, “He’s pretty unique.” Shin-woo adds, “I think things are going to get interesting.” Tae-kyung rains on the parade: “We’ll have to wait and see whether it’ll turn into fun or disaster.”
They all look on in alarm as Mi-nyeo sways dangerously on the bench, and starts to lose her balance.
They rush at her, and as she freezes, in that split second she thinks, “Mother Superior, I dreamt a very strange dream.”
She imagines herself floating down from a bright sky with the three boys in the statue garden. She walks by them in turn, as they look at her in wonder.
Mi-nyeo basks in dream-sunlight and thinks, “Have I gone and come back from heaven?”
As she slowly wakes in the morning, she wonders, “Am I still in heaven?”
After a year of disappointing trendies like Boys Before Flowers, Triple, My Fair Lady, and Heading to the Ground, I’m excited to have one that just might actually work. For the first time in a long while, the first episode was not only entertaining but also made me feel excited.
The Hong sisters have their faults, but they are very good with story, and with finding the bits of angst and emotion within an otherwise peppy, funny, zippy plot. What I enjoy about all their dramas is that they can do the dramatic moments well, but they don’t rely on melodrama. They’ve also gotten much better about not dragging out the plot with contrived conflicts, and when they make use of cliches, it’s often to poke fun at them. Their dramas do film in the live shoot system, but I’ve read interviews where they explain that they lock themselves up for days at a time to hammer out the story, so I have faith that they do think of the future plot as they write.
Also: FINALLY! Jang Geun-seok is cast in something I like him in! I think he’s a talented actor who has not made full use of his skills in the past, but for the first time I’m actually into his character. He may not fully embrace his pretty image, but I think he’s spot-on perfect for this role.
The other two guys — Lee Hong-ki, Jung Yong-hwa — are well-cast too, but if we’re being honest their acting skills are serviceable, but not outstanding. (Lee Hong-ki’s character is very exaggerated, but in a charming way, while I think Jung Yong-hwa is a little less natural,) But thank goodness Jang Geun-seok can ACT. And Mi-nyeo is so pure and sweet that she’s the perfect foil for cynical, embittered Tae-kyung.
(Note: I think I’m going to get VERY sick of this “I Will Promise You” song by the series’ end, but for now I like it. Similar to T-Max’s “Paradise,” it’s very catchy. I think it was a good casting call to hire an actor who looks like an idol and can sing — I’m very glad they didn’t do the reverse and hire an idol star to act. Really, there are few actors who are equally suited to the task. Lee Min-ki, maybe, but Jang is younger and “prettier.”)
As a girl, Park Shin-hye is adorably innocent, and there’s a recurring gag that whenever someone refers to her as “Sister” or “nun,” she corrects them by saying, “I’m not actually a full nun yet…” (It’s like The Office‘s “Assistant manager/Assistant TO the manager.”) But when she’s posing as a guy, her innocence makes for an interesting dynamic. The same actions coming from a nun (apprentice) take on a different, oddball charm when coming from a trendy male pop star. It gives (Fake) Mi-nam a certain “yupgi” appeal.
Cute and fun!
I liked You’re Beautiful enough to check how many episodes it would be, hoping for a larger number. Apparently it says the drama is set to be “16 or 20 episodes,” which indicates flexibility. Given the tentatively positive response, I’m going to guess there’s a good chance it’s 20.
You’re Beautiful, you were much better than I was expecting. Please don’t fail me now!
- You’re Beautiful gears up for its premiere
- Faux idol group A.N.Jell is revealed
- FT Island’s Hong-ki ready to return to acting
- Park Shin-hye crossdresses for You’re Beautiful
- Jang Geun-seok gets into character for You’re Beautiful
- Park Shin-hye is Jang Geun-seok’s girl in You’re Beautiful
- Hong sisters idol drama to be led by Jang Geun-seok
- New idol star drama in the works