Edited by Kim Won Hee
Translated by Kim Hoyeun
Seo Ji Hye, who played the role of Seo Dan in Crashing Landing On You, showed off her dashing charm. Being nicknamed “Goo-Dan couple,” she presented heart-fluttering romance with Kim Jung Hyun, who played the tole of Goo Seung Jun. Now, she has once again returned with the romance drama Dinner Mate with Hallyu star Song Seung Heon. I started watching the drama only because it was Seo Ji Hye’s project, but was it a good choice?
Webtoon-based drama, Dinner Mate, tells the story of Woo Do Hee and Kim Hae Kyung, whose feelings of love have deteriorated due to the scars of breakups, finding comfort in each other after becoming a dinner mate. Seo Ji Hye plays the role of Woo Do Hee, a producer in charge of byeongmat (something that is ridiculous or funny) content at a live streaming content production company, while Song Seung Heon plays Kim Hye Kyung, a food therapist and psychiatrist who treats patients’ broken minds with food. The two start to get along after meeting and sharing a meal together in Jeju Island by chance. But at the same time, their ex-lovers reappear in their lives, entangling the four people’s complicated emotions.
The beginning seems to be all right. The coincidental meeting between the two, who knew nothing about each other, felt like it was inevitable fate, and the chemistry between the two seemed great. However, from the scene where the two get involved in business, the drama begins to get somewhat embarrassing. Woo Do Hee, who tries to cast Kim Hae Kyung in her show without knowing anything, starts to battle via email with him when she receives his callous responses. To which, Kim Hye Kyung points our her manner/attitude and suggests her to seek psychiatric counseling. If it was a scene in a cartoon, it could be considered as a fun happening to instill conflict. However, the behaviors of the two in the drama are too opaque for those of us who are actually working in offices to the point that it instantly hinders the immersion. Especially, as Kim Hae Kyung’s job is a psychiatrist, I wonder if the way he coped the situation was professionally okay.
This is not the only thing that prevents immersion. Ex-lovers who left scars in Woo Do Hee and Kim Hye Kyung’s lives are also hard to comprehend. Woo Do Hee’s first love, Jung Jae Hyuk, and Kim Hye Kyung’s first love, Jin Noh Eul, are incredibly selfish. The two disappeared after coldly abandoning their loved ones, but then reappear as if nothing has happened and try to restore their relationship. Without giving a second thought to how they (the ones they left) feel, all they want to do is force their love. Jung Jae Hyuk, in particular, even amplifies the displeasure as he approaches Woo Doo Hee violently and forcefully. Besides, maybe it’s because of their 18-year age difference, no matter how much I try, I cannot feel the “lovers’ chemistry” between Son Na Eun and Song Seung Heon.
Also, the gag scenes that’s only there for the laughter break the focus. The drama presents various scenes where various content, from trendy trot singers to various parodies, are comically drawn, but rather than giving a big laugh, the level of immersion that has barely been pulled up scatters without a trace.
Crucially, the part that left the worst impression is the excessive usages of newly-coined words. In the drama, the word “Debt Too” appears when Jin No Eul gets attacked after her mother ran away with the money she got from her cons. It makes me frown at the constant appearance of the word, which is derived from the “Me Too” movement and means “I, too, have not been repaid the money I lent.”
In the drama, dinner has an important meaning of two people sitting together, healing the mind, and eating delicious food in a comfortable atmosphere. However, from the second half of the story, the significance seems to be fading away. In the recent episodes, Woo Do Hee and Kim Hae Kyung admitted their feelings and started dating. And naturally, their confrontations against Jung Jae Hyuk and Jin No Eul have gotten stronger. Will the narrative and chemistry of the main characters improve in the latter half? At this rate, enjoying the dinner alone might even be better.
Verdict: Hard to empathize love between the four people (4/10)