My dramas are treating me so kind it must be rubbing all the snark off me. Not one of my usual grumpy post. 😀
Boss and Me:
Zanilia Zhao Li Ying has a place in my heart just on the feat of elevating typical crappy yuma writing to a watchable saner place and having ridiculous chemistry with ChenXiao. However I also ran far away after a few minutes of her pairing up with Hawick in some typical headdesky Cmodernmelo she looked haggard in. Her several period dramas after Lu Zhen were so-so.
Her ShanShan though, made me a fangirl almost instantaneously, after three 30~min episodes, I warmed up even to the little zany drama itself. She has improved into a seamlessly natural young actress that can ground this insignificant bare bone of a story.
I wished she has less makeup on, otherwise she is perfect bringing to life the regular unassumingly likeable office girl ShanShan. Translating cute without ANY OTT seems to be the hardest job for young C starlets these days, but ZLY makes it as easy as breathing air through a story mindnumbing still but nothing too cringeworthy banshee, the biggest plus with all the works of writer Gu Man. Her novella fairytales are thin and unmemorable to me, but that is also her strength as she never wavers into the trap of many C novella writers fabricating nonsensical angst and characters we want to hurl things at just to fill up pages. I bet her motto is brevity is soul of wit. Her writing is breezy and nothing hurts. There are almost no aholes and b*tches in the fluffy world she creates. Amen to that. Gu Man does not aim high, her works are not worthy masterpieces but she excels in making ordinary tales not boring.
I was almost swearing off it, 2 words: Zhang Han.
Because I am from a cuckoo planet faraway, I have a reverse Domyouji curse of sorts: allergic to every single one of the massively popular actors attached. I have the heebiejeebies looking at ZH’s eyes and when he smiles……I can’t. His line reading is metronome-horrible, there are actors who need dubbing, especially when ZYL is nailing her every enunciation. But because i am suddenly nice, his off-putting scaring children and me appearance fits the construct of not the typical annoying cranky can’t keep nasty comments to himself needing some beating rich brats yet heroine heart flutters butterflies nonetheless, here he is not swooning SS off her feet right away and ZLY’s SS is so naturally cute with Guy2 (our charming harmless ChangFeng/actor Huang Ming from Perfect Couple), a kicking alterna-ship is set sail!
I am surprised how every turn of events makes sense in fantasy romance lalaland AND reaching out to enough plausibility in RL… get your brows ready to frown because this is a drama where the synopsis is literally reading as follows: a lowly newbie of company is forced fed to be a blood cow (literally) and the rich prince CEO flailing for her because he thinks her cute eating bentos of cow livers his chef cooked. All the usual wallflower/ doormat girl cliches are toned down, the cold annoying prince is not exactly the psychotic twat cliche. ShanShan is not a lot of very fetching things, but she makes sense in her character bubble, how ordinarily level-minded and sensibly one-track her mind is, how out of everyone’s way, warm and bubbly but never intrusive, with normal IQ and EQ, when she is silly, she is aware of it in her thought bubble we hear in the VOs, overall quite a charming package. No one could hate her, and very believably certain someone would see her as extraordinary.
What is most shocking for me is stylistically this is the first C trendy without trying too gaudily hard. All the clothes on ShanShan are cute and in season, reasonably pretty and affordable within her budget, all the ladies are properly styled for character, guys too! How bizarre is this?! I do not think i have ever not rolled stinky eyes at the fug mistaken as vogue in the typical Cidolmodern, well, Kdrama is still keeping that stinky trophy not sharing. I would not mind dressing like ShanShan at all if I was her. ZH’s face still hurts my aesthetics but as long as he is not saying his famous Meteor Rain line or variations of it: ‘not my fault I am born filthy rich and ridiculously handsome‘, I am warming up to his character the Boss who is a papertiger in love for an ordinary girl he is not skilled at romancing. He is not the best choice for character on the acting alone, awkward with girls does not mean a paralysis of face, but even that doesn’t hurt how charming and all around a good job well done this drama is for what it is worth.
Fated to Love You
From a cranky hatemonger ahjumma literally throwing things giving up at the extreme ridiculous of nonsense, i did not last a few eps of the original. Here i was laughing up a lung at Jang Hyuk guffaws, or topless in the first scene and topless often thereafter, yes, i find it mostly hilarious, wet and manboobs flaunting and I am sticking my face an inch from screen examining what is the freak that is Jang NaRa to be still passing as early 20er and cute as if the 10~ years are all gobbled up by JH alone. It brought me back to the good old guaranteed fun days where K romcom productions have copious heart, doing cute things to every pore of me and i surrender my brain just for the high of sitting back and enjoying the ride of escapism, no care to nitpick nor snark… back when i was gullible, naive and nothing stinks. You would never know a good thing until it is forever lost. I do not know how ridiculous the story will head, doubt drama could be anything respectable, but Jang Hyuk and Jang NaRa are jiang!!!! The romcom dependable ship, both of them are good looking for idolfluff still, effortless and winning, perhaps too seasoned for this slapstick, but it gives them a confident ease lacking in their younger days, grounding this material, attacking the silly with so much earnest, commitment and grabbed my heart, dragging me into believing every step of the silly is the only way things should unfold when i have almost forgotten i still have a soft spot for this kind of charmingly dumb guilty pleasure.
I rewatched the good bits of Servant of Two Masters/一仆二主. A friend dramarathon did great snippets of it at her tumblr. It is not a start to finish masterpiece, could do massive editing and shorten it by 10eps but it has a whole smorgasbord wittiest coolest cutest female characters in particular saying some of the darnest soulful quotable quips I’ve witnessed this year. And perfect acting all around. I cried throughout ep35 with goosebumps, the episode that is worth it to watch the drama for, for the acting alone. I lol, i jumped in joy, I spit tea cracking a hernia, i wanted to hit some characters when they r being stupid, consciously making booboos…being human.
What was this hand gesture of yours about?!
Yan Ni is my Cdrama goddess, she delivers in spades EVERY time. Her Tang Hong has so much grace even when crazy it is intoxicating. I love EVERYTHING about her, especially Chinese words out of her mouth, are essentially little bursts of brain and ear orgasms:
When you did good, they will get jealous,
when you fail, they will look down on you.
When you let down your guard, they say you are flirty
When you are cautious, they say you are uppity.
When you are nice to others, they say you are silly.
A bit more savvy, they say you are sly.
Affectionate… they call you loose.
Composed… they call you smug.
No matter how good you are,
there will be someone nitpicking a prick out of you, right?!
– Tang Hong on Woman vs World to an 18 year old.
Every single female character in this drama is kickass models representing a real woman ideal we can aspire to be, we all can love and want so much to steal quotes from to impress, as wisecracking even when at moments of being a loon…an actress’ dream and what a marvelous casting job gathering this befitting talented bunch. I rewatched this because i just revisited one favorite scene in Chinese Style Divorce of ChenDaoMing’s back dancing in a disco in episode 20 (around 10 min mark), you cracked up thinking it is hilarious for 10 seconds that it hits you he is emoting all the despair of his disintegrating marriage and life like the formidable master he is and next thing you know, tears still falling. and I thought of the ridiculously memorable warmth, cuteness overload of the OTP in 1Servant2masters singing and dancing expressing all the complexity of romance at a certain age. One Servant Two Master the exact antithesis of Chinese Style Divorce.
All of this because i rewatched Homecoming/归来. (there is Yan Ni and Zhang JiaYi in it, my two most dependable favorite terrific C actors) I have seen it in theater deep in jetlag because i am completely nuts. My yardstick of a ZYM masterpiece is haunting me, possessing my every thought for 3 days at least walking out the theater dazed and enthralled. When Mr. ZYM connects with me, i am forever his captive of the work. Hitting me the strongest unexpectedly are his critically less popular films: The Road Home，Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles, Flowers of War and now 归来. ZYM loves flashy lushness sometimes, often it is his primary color palate addiction making an excessively loud statement, here he only lavishes in the richest fullest of nuanced textbook fine acting from ChenDaoMing and GongLi, massively editing the story, using practically last 30, 40 pp of the original novel to a lot of dismay of critics to quite a stunning simplistic efficiency yet like a best chef, using the a few fine bits of ingredients, packing an orchestra of flavor, trusting his duo of masterful actors to deliver the story, every nuance of emotions in so little. Just the moment the two thesps are on, you never spare a moment thinking how well they are doing bringing alive the characters in the novel, they are breathing living the characters, you do not see acting, you see being and feeling of them as the characters, as simple as nothing more, nothing less. And ZYM is so bold in streamlining the story economizing every existing thing on his film to have a place, tell its piece of the story. A borrowed scarlet dance costume on the daughter as she dances for her parents in the character that was her dream, long gone, an off tune piano, the tightly tucked in blanket cocooning all her trauma and memories within. The trauma of the cultural revolution is in little notes of reminder to herself in writing she lost the capacity grasping the reality of her husband who came home too late, decades too late, in memory she dwells but that was the cause of too much pain she could only regressed them deeper to protect its sanctity, her sanity, but now unable to retrieve at free will…now that they are ‘free’, ‘exonerated’ whatever verbs mean in the tarnished context after a massacre of mind in the revolution. I have no words how awestruck i am with GongLi here, where her character requires a fluidity of almost her old conscious aware self peeking out through the layers of time and weary, yet not quite, in flickers of emotions almost surfacing to her face but the mind of the character is not connecting, or too traumatized to dare connect.
I have not seen the fading away of the mind played with this mesmerizing haunting allure…because at the depth of it, it is a falling in love every sight anew and a forgetting every glance she casts on him, perhaps that is not the right word, but a bond, the invisible red twine, that keeps them going, love that pushes all the fog of anger, of wrong aside. What if the movie did not detail upon the gritty revolution? A few years away is not a good time to open up, perhaps there never will be a good time. They are forever living as witness and victims in every breath they inhale thereafter. It is mental, brainwashing warfare and it is a defeat for humanity to quote the Pope. People surviving the CR has every shred of humility lost, what if he was a dandy rich boy fluent in French and the arts?! A well read professor, she a respected teacher?! You still get dragged like a dog, hit on your head, a nobody, insignificant, and can vanish from your closest dear ones for decades, not a word heard of as a comrade stated matter of fact to the wife, ‘ why does the party see any need to inform the family on anything about Lu YanShi.’ Why indeed. I covet how ZYM can evoke in me emotions so overwhelming just with GongLi’s Yu slightly hushed steps on the staircase hearing CDM’s Yanshi playing his tune on the piano. The very last scene before the credits of them at the train station, her in the rickshaw he carried her in, him holding the plague with his name. Perfection, perfect for the tears to keep flowing.