Edited by Yang Young Jun
Translated by Kim Hoyeun
Is there a word that better explains the drama than “beautiful faces”? Even when we try to switch the channel thinking, “this is too obvious,” we find ourselves completely immersed in the drama thanks to actors whose faces are the perfect storytelling. This drama is tvN’s webtoon-adapted drama True Beauty.
For high school girl Im Joo Kyung, “appearance” equals trauma. Not only was she compared to her pretty sister and handsome brother all her life, but she was also bullied at school for being “ugly.” It is makeup that changed Joo Kyung’s life. Joo Kyung, who didn’t know a thing about makeup, finds her own methods after a long practice and leads an entirely different life after being nicknamed the “goddess” at a new school.
But from the first day, Joo Kyung faces an unexpected situation when she realizes that Lee Su Ho, who she became friends with in her bare face when she frequented a comic book store, goes to the same school. Terrified of returning to the old days when she was bullied because of her appearance, Jo Kyung pretends to be two different people – “school goddess Im Joo Kyung” and “comic book store Im Joo Bal” – in front of Su Ho, but the truth cannot be hidden forever.
The drama follows the romance genre by the book. As the saying goes, “becoming friends through bickering,” the male and the female leads who used to quarrel a lot start to grow closer, and when the second leads who spark “second lead syndrome” step into the picture, things start to get complicated. This kind of story always works in every country and age, but it could become relatively mundane. Then how did True Beauty differentiate itself from others?
True Beauty is a drama that shows the “fun in watching” for sure. First, the visuals of Moon Ga Young, Cha Eun Woo and Hwang In Yeop is awe-inspiring. Cha Eun Woo, who plays Lee Su Ho who has it all from appearance and brain to athletic ability, looks like he has just popped out of the webtoon, and Hwang In Yeop triggers second lead syndrome by flawlessly playing Han Seo Joon, who seems cold and rude but is actually considerate. Moon Ga Young also presents an attractive character, regardless of whether she has makeup or not. I didn’t mention “beautiful faces” for no reason.
The “fun in watching” naturally leads to acting. There is not one actor that seems awkward, and of course, this is thanks to actors’ stable performances but also big thanks to the solid cast lineup. Maybe we feel that way because the harmony between rookie actors and veteran actors who have more than 10 years of experience is quite remarkable. Among all of them, the most notable actor is Moon Ga Young. Not only is she capable of delicate emotional acting, but she also excels in comical acting, presenting a performance that can certainly be called “Moon Ga Young’s One Man Show Drama.”
The relationships are also quite attractive. Joo Hyun, Su Ho and Seo Joon’s love triangle is undoubtedly fresh and heart-fluttering, but the relationship between Joo Kyung’s sister Im Hee Kyung (Lim Se Mi) and homeroom teacher Han Joon Woo (Oh Eui Sik) is eye-catching. Hee Kyung, who is enthusiastic in love, and Joon Woo, who is shy and cautious, flips the cliché of the existing romance dramas. It is simply the reversal of stereotypes about gender roles, but it’s refreshing enough.
However, the letdowns are also quite apparent. The constant cheesy lines and exaggerated directing that seem to test our patience hinder the immersion, and the over-the-line Chinese companies product placement makes us feel like we’re watching a Chinese drama. The controversy over whether the drama is justifying lookism through a story that basically says everything will be solved if you’re pretty is also a task to be solved.
True Beauty has just reached its turning point. While Joo Kyung and Su Ho got to know each other’s true feelings, Seo Joon became a fan of Joo Kyung and Su Ho’s old friend Kang Soo Jin may become Joo Kyung’s rival in love. Most of all, the question of when Joo Kyung will unveil her bare face (or whether she will hide it till the end) is amplifying. I don’t know how their story will end, but if there’s one thing I know for sure is that I will be watching it till the end.
Verdict: The actors’ charms that make us look forward to the most cliché story (6.0)
Editor Yang Young Jun: There is at least one good part in every movie or TV series. A media geek who isn’t picky with genres.