Most romantic comedies sublimate sexual tension into some kind of other non-gendered competition. "Madame Antoine" does the exact opposite. Soo-hyeon intentionally courts Hye-rim in the most weirdly unnecessary confrontational way possible. While Soo-hyeon is in theory running a scientific experiment, he interprets any intermediate results of the experiment very personally. As much as Soo-hyeon thinks in terms of petty revenge, he's really looking at a much more terrifying prospect- the notion that he is not the smartest man in the room.
It's funny how smarts tend to be thought of as being everything important, whe context matters just as much. One relevant scene involves an attempt to impress Hye-rim on the part of one of her one would-be suitors- an attempt that fails mostly because stuff that requires lots of mental effort is not inherently impressive. I can't help but be reminded of "Answer Me 1988", and how for most of that drama's run the smartest male lead struggled to present himself in an attractive way when he was decently-looking to start out with.
Back to "Madame Antoine". Unfortunately there's still very little exposure in terms of the temporary guest star patient. I'm not sure whether her big dramatic scene at the end was intended to resolve the character arc or not, but I'm hoping not. Hye-rim's non-psychological perspective is good for many things, if only because some situations simply do not call for proper diplomacy. At the same time, long-term mental problems call for long-term treatment.
That's another way "Madame Antoine" inverts genre conventions though- typically with an episodic design like this we'd be seeing more of the one-off characters and less of the greater unifying storyline. It's a bit of a disappointment, really, because I want Soo-hyeon to explain basic psychological principles just as much as Hye-rim does. The theming of "Madame Antoine" is at its strongest when these two are in voiceover trying to correctly guess the best plan of action to impress / intimidate the other.
Which naturally has nothing to do with the episodic elements so I'm more inclined tp see decisions relating to scripting as being a larger strategy on the part of the production team to have "Madame Antoine" focus on the strengths. Namely, how this drama is able to manage often morbid material in an otherwise standard romantic coimedy design without making the situation seem too cruel. It's the pep talks that do it I think. A simple word of encouragement can go a pretty lopng way.
Review by William Schwartz
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
"[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Madame Antoine" Episode 4"
by HanCinema is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Jang Yeong-sil - Drama" Episode 9
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