Credits: 2005 YA Entertainment
Kim Sam Soon is 29 years old, nearing spinsterhood, and hating her cursed name. Dumped by her boyfriend on Christmas Eve, Sam Soon runs to the bathroom to seek refuge and to cry her eyes out. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the girls’ washroom she ends up hiding in. Here she meets Hyun Ji Hun, the arrogant prima donna hotel heir who was more interested in being a woman-hating asshole than acting like a gentleman. Sam Soon and Ji Hun clash…
…Until Ji Hun comes up with a crazy idea about a dating contract. Being the woman-hater that he is, he despises his mother’s efforts in setting him up with eligible bachelorettes. He thinks that introducing the unpolished and perpetually sarcastic Sam Soon as his girlfriend would drive his mother up the wall. Sam Soon bites this as Ji Hun offers her a sum she couldn’t resist. A tangled relationship full of hilarious moments follows.
I find it difficult to write a review about this particular series. I love everything about it that I don’t know where or how to begin. Let me give it a shot, though.
For starters, this is the first Korean telenovela that I actually sat down for. I have tried watching other Korean comedies like Attic Cat, but I never quite managed to rearrange my work schedule for those. That changed the moment I heard Sam Soon speak. The girl is everything that you won’t see in fairy tale princesses. She’s a bit on the heavy side, didn’t get a college degree, has a smart mouth, and always sounds like she just woke up. In short: she’s rough around the edges. The best part is the fact that Sam Soon is a pastry chef. So if you’re a cake-a-holic like me, you’re in for a visual treat.
Actress Kim Sun-Ah, who plays the title role, actually gained 15 pounds for this. It was a wise decision, because Kim Sam Soon wouldn’t have been effective as a comedienne without the chubby cheeks. There have been many sarcastic heroines, but none as hilariously engaging as Sam Soon. She delivers her lines with a deadpan voice and a not-so-deadpan expression. With an easily irritable male protagonist bearing the brunt of her gruffness, the result is simply entertaining.
Ugly duckling stories are also pretty common these days. What breaks the ugly-duckling-turned-swan stereotype is the way Sam Soon handles her flaws. She knows her self-worth, so she doesn’t let herself be treated like a doormat. She doesn’t sell out. She doesn’t miraculously turn into a swan due to cosmetic surgery and killer aerobics training sessions. She has this “So I’m fat, deal with it!” aura that just positively does what most teen magazines can’t do: make a reader/viewer love herself. The character also evolves from one who sees marriage and conformity as the end-all and be-all of life into someone so totally independent. She achieves all this through hard work, not through some long lost relative who suddenly dies and leaves her with a fortune.
Another thing that differentiates this show from most telenovelas is the supporting characters. Sam Soon wants to change her name to Hee Jin, unaware that there is another Hee Jin that brought a huge impact on Ji Hun’s life. When the real Hee Jin returns home from a long hiatus in the US, I found myself feeling sorry for her. The love triangle is intense not only because Hee Jin is a potentially tragic character, but also because there are episodes in which you might just want to surrender Ji Hun to her. And then there’s Henry (played by drool-worthy Daniel Henney), the Korean-American doctor who unconditionally loves Hee Jin. Another funny character to note is Sam Soon’s hot but equally feisty older sister, whom I could totally relate with. She’s a progressive divorcee who doesn’t mince words and knows what she wants.
As for Ji Hun, I thought he was a pretty annoying pest at first. Hyun Bin portrayed this role quite well because I had never been annoyed at a TV male protagonist the way I had been with Ji Hun. Sam Soon’s unapologetic personality balances Hi Jun’s bratty attitude so well that I found myself giggling at their antics near the end of the series. The chemistry was that powerful.
My Lovely Sam Soon is a great watch. I was sad to see it end. Not only was it thoroughly enjoyable, it was also inspirational. I believe a lot of women can benefit from this. Oh…and you definitely have to see Sam Soon’s stuffed piggy in action.
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