If you've ever seen the American movie, "The Truth About Cats and Dogs", then the premise of "She Was Pretty" will be immediately familiar to you. A below-average looking girl asks her gorgeous best friend to pose as her when she reunites with the man that she secretly had a crush on as a child. Since this is a somewhat novel storyline in the Korean drama world, I was intrigued by how "She Was Pretty" would execute the mistaken identity plot. Honestly, I was hoping that the mistaken identity would only be used as a hook or a comedic twist. Unfortunately, it serves as the central tension, for which the drama becomes both predictable and prolonged.
The other gripe I have with "She Was Pretty" is that I have trouble finding many of the characters relatable or even likeable. Even though "She Was Pretty" hauls in an attractive cast, featuring Hwang Jung-eum and Park Seo-joon, I found myself turned off by their roles for the first half of the drama. It felt as if the characters were manipulated to fit the development of the storyline, rather than the other way around.
What "She Was Pretty" does successfully deliver is an amusing comedy with heartfelt acting. However, without the actors' charms, "She Was Pretty" appears to be just another typical drama lacking deeper substance.
"She Was Pretty" quickly prepares the stage for our central conflict as we are introduced to two unlikely best friends: Kim Hye-jin (Hwang Jung-eum) and Min Ha-ri (Go Joon-hee). Hye-jin appears with an incredulous image of major red blush, extreme freckles, and uncontrollably frizzy hair. She's an inconspicuous girl who used to be the prettiest girl in her class. On the other hand, Ha-ri, Hye-jin's childhood friend, has chic styles and men lining up to date her. However, Ha-ri loves her "wife" and roommate, Hye-jin, more than any of these men.
Hye-jin receives an e-mail from Ji Seong-joon (Park Seo-joon), her childhood friend and first love, requesting to meet. Because of Hye-jin's complete change in appearance, Seong-joon does not recognize her at all and walks right past her. In an effort to preserve her childhood image, Hye-jin quickly calls in a favor for Ha-ri to meet with Seong-joon in her stead.
At first, it seems that Hye-jin has successfully survived this encounter. However, she ends up working at a fashion magazine publishing company in which Seong-joon is the deputy chief editor. Unbeknownst to the rest of the fashion editorial department, Seong-joon has been hired to save the magazine from impending discontinuation. In order to increase sales and keep them motivated, he treats all of his employees harshly. He is especially callous towards Hye-jin, whom he finds incompetent. The misunderstanding of Hye-jin's identity also deepens further as Seong-joon continues to meet with Ha-ri, who begins to develop personal feelings towards Seong-joon.
"She Was Pretty" starts out promising with a playful plot, comedic elements, and appealing characters. The flashbacks to the childhood memories between Hye-jin and Seong-joon are sweet and endearing. Yet the drama soon falls out of favor when the characters begin to serve a mechanical function of creating conflict. Instead, I wish "She Was Pretty" could've explored more compelling character development around the theme of superficial beauty without all the unnecessary drama.
I was very disappointed that Ha-ri becomes the antagonist, as I quite liked her down-to-earth, strong-willed personality from the get-go. Ironically, she gives Hye-jin sound advice at first but then becomes the senseless one herself. Although I acknowledge that the drama elaborates on her backstory and challenges the camaraderie between Hye-jin and Ha-ri, I honestly just wish they hadn't gone down that path. Meanwhile, Hye-jin's character feels very exaggerated with child-like temper tantrums that seem completely disparate from her former youth. Seong-joon also acts unreasonably condescending with no remorse. The only saving grace is the light-hearted, quirky Kim Sin-hyeok (Choi Si-won). Every scene that shows him interacting with Hye-jin a.k.a Jackson is immensely entertaining.
Funcurve is a new kind of reviews site. Their reviews help readers visualize the ups and downs of a drama from start to finish with an impression graph. Read more Korean drama reviews at funcurve.com.
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