There's a South Korean variety show wherein celebrities pretend to marry each other. I've never really understood the appeal of this particular format. I'm kind of surprised it's still around honestly. These are the thoughts that when through my head as I watched Jin-jin and So-ni play through their roles for that show in a show. The entire concept is obviously fake from the beginning, so nestling it inside an explicitly fictional drama just manages to make everything feel even more fake.
That's the main issue with "Boy and Girl From the 20th Century"- it just feels chronically insincere. It's about characters who are almost entirely incapable of expressing themselves when it comes to romantic feelings. That on its own wouldn't be such a big problem except that none of the principles ever even really try to. They're so obsessed with trying to look aloof and cool that their actions aren't even passive-aggressive. They're passive-passive.
The only real assertive character we have is the cleaner who works in Yeong-sim's office. Which is unfortunate, since the only thing she seems to have an especially strong opinion about is the proper way to prepare and dispose of mixed coffee. That those, of all things, are the main emotional scenes in "Boy and Girl From the 20th Century" is very strange, especially considering that the cleaner character also gets a subplot this episode that I'm not sure is going anywhere because Yeong-sim has already accomplished her only apparent goal of getting a job.
Goals. That's what's missing in this drama. Most of the time it's easy enough to tolerate a romantic comedy with relatively few romantic scenes because the leads are always distracted by trying to solve other problems that take precedence. Then they find love because in the process of solving those problems, they discover mutual support that was there all along. That's a staple K-Drama formula that's used because it works.
But it really doesn't work at all when the goal in question is, say, Ahn-reum and Woo-seong having platonic discussions about dating other people instead of just dating each other. That plotline sticks out as being explicitly pointless, compared to Jin-jin goal of trying to have a successful television career. That goal is just boring, and there doesn't really seem to be any way for her to do it wrong, so all we're left is a rather unfulfilling love triangle between Jin-jin, her ex-boyfriend, and her fake TV boyfriend, where we barely even get to see any juicy jealousy.
Review by William Schwartz
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Staff writer. Has been writing articles for HanCinema since 2012, having lived in South Korea since 2011. Started out in Gyeongju, then to Daegu, then to Ansan, then to Yeongju, then to Seoul, lived on the road for HanCinema's travel diaries series in the summer of 2016, and is currently settled in Anyang. Has good tips for utilizing South Korea's public bus system. William Schwartz can be contacted via email@example.com.
"[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Boy and Girl From the 20th Century" Episodes 11-12"
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