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Personal Taste 개인의 취향 [2010] - with spoilers

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QpihnSK.jpgPersonal Taste 개인의 취향 [2010]

aka Personal Preference


Director: Son Hyung Suk, Noh Jong Chan
Writer: Kim Hee Ju
Based on the novel Personal Taste by Lee Se In
Cast: Son Ye Jin, Lee Min Ho, Kim Ji Seok, Wang Ji Hye
Genre: Romantic Comedy





Some background:
Lee Min Ho was coming off an impressive leading man turn in the coming of age drama Boys Over Flowers when he chose this rom-com Son Ye Jin. In BoF, LMH had made the man-child character of Gun Jun Pyo the most riveting element of that series alongside a cast of other newbie actors. In Personal Taste, LMH had to act alongside an actress who was already an established and beloved star who was also 5 years older than himself, where he turned in a credible, though not stellar performance.


Son Ye Jin already had done a number of film and drama roles which were more melodramatic and intense. She went from playing a sweet, innocent ingenue which earned her the nickname of Korea’s First Love to roles in weightier works playing strong, ambitious, morally ambiguous women. She wanted to have a fun, light-hearted role and so chose Personal Taste.


The title Personal Taste is a play on the FL’s name Gae In which is also a word that means “personal” or “individual”, so this drama really is about Gae In’s choices and preferences.

The set up and review:

Personal Taste is a romantic comedy where both the romance and the comedy result primarily from the cohabitation of the ML and the FL when they are both very different personalities and how they become friends and ultimately fall in love.


Park Gae In (Son Ye Jin) is the daughter of a famous architect, living in a traditional Korean home (named SangGoJae) that he had designed and built for his family to live in. Her mother has died in a tragic accident in that house for which GI blames herself, while her father has moved to live and work in England after the accident. GI herself is an independent designer of furniture trying to establish herself with mixed success with a long time boyfriend who she’s hoping to marry.


Jeon Jin Woo (Lee Min Ho) is a young, ambitious architect who has launched his own firm, and is hoping to make a name for his fledgling firm by winning a contest to build the new DAAM Art Center. He hears that the head of the selection committee is a particular admirer of GI’s father and SangGoJae, and thus tries to gain entrance to SangGoJae though GI does not allow anyone into her private home.


GI’s long-term boyfriend Han Jang Ryul (Kim Ji Seok) is not very supportive of GI, and breaks up with her in a pretty mean fashion. His main quibble seems to be that GI is too receptive and too willing to be with him and do things for him. However, it turns out that the real reason JR breaks up with GI is that he’s been having an affair with GI’s best friend and roommate Kim In Hee (Wang Ji Hye) behind GI’s back and is about to marry her. GI finds out because she attends her friend’s wedding, even though she has not been invited to it, and causes a ruckus upon finding out that IH and JR are about to get married.


This disrupts the wedding, causing the wedding couple to have a falling out and the wedding itself to be cancelled. JW happens to be at the wedding as a guest since he is in competition with JR’s father who owns a well established architectural and construction firm which used to be owned by JW’s father. Confused and amused yet?


All of these troubles cause IH to reject JR after all, and ultimately decide that she’s really interested in JW instead. Btw, IH is the personal executive assistant of the man who is in charge of deciding on the architect for the DAAM Art Center Project. JR, after being rejected by IH, finally realize how supportive, loving and forgiving GI has always been, and decide that he wants to get GI back. Not to mention, JR’s father upon finding out that GI is the daughter of the celebrated architect who is revered by the DAAM Project reviewers demands that JR make up with GI.


In the midst of all this though, JW has managed to rent IH’s old room from GI who agrees based on a previous misunderstanding that JW is gay, and thus not violating any prohibitions born of modesty and propriety. And, thus the cohabitation starts as does the main love square. It’s actually a love mess as there are subplots with a girl who is living in JW’s house with his mother calling herself his fiancee who is in turn being chased by one of JW’s staff, as well as the gay senior executive (a significant cameo by movie star Ryu Seung Ryong) associated with the DAAM Project (IH’s boss) who is also attracted to JW.


And, this leads to my first and possibly biggest issue with this drama. The base plot is very thin, so they’ve made the relationships stretch and twist beyond all boundaries of coincidence and reason, even by kdrama standards. Not to mention, they’ve written the second leads without a shred of conscience or morals but in a very matter of fact way, at least until nearly the end. For instance, the second female lead tries to move back into SangGoJae with GI after her marriage attempt flops. The second male lead thinks he has a right to GI despite having betrayed her with her best friend even to the point of marrying the friend, but doesn't understand why GI won't fall back into his arms. There is another friend of GI’s who points out how appalling and shameless their actions are, but GI, being the warm-hearted saint that she is, harbors no real ill will towards either of the SL’s.


It means some serious suspension of belief through the various plots and counterplots that feels exhausting rather than giving much sense of emotional engagement or payoff. The characters themselves feel expediently written rather than with any internal consistency. So, the characters do things in order to progress the plot as it is or to get the laugh rather than because there is any sense that the characters would actually act the way they do because its inherent to their nature.


The directing is just okay, not intrusive but also not memorable, and with a few weird angles on shots that just served to confuse me. That is also true of the production in general. Perhaps we’ve become used to much better directing, editing and cinematography now, whereas this feels like standard tv fare of its time. Unfortunately, that leads to this drama looking and feeling outdated as well. SangGoJae is a beautiful house, although the tragic flaw in its design that is at the heart of the reason GI loses her mother feels more like a materials flaw than an actual design flaw which seems simplistic given the status of the architect and builder.


As written, the dialogue is also on the simplistic side which leads to awkward interactions which made me think that perhaps I would have enjoyed this drama better if I did not understand Korean since I found myself giggling at a number of the serious mood scenes. SYJ as a veteran at least tried to do more with her line deliveries and emoting. LMH, as the newer, younger actor was not so fortunate. Leading to such not-so-classic exchanges as this scene where GI has somehow gotten an ill JW out of a car and into a bed by herself and is now nursing him with a cloth to his head):


GI:Jin Woo-sshi, are you back to your senses?
JW: Gae In-sshi
GI: How could a person be so foolish until your body becomes like this?
JW: Don’t worry about a guy like me.
GI: Who’s worrying?
JW: I’m okay, so please go now.
GI: How can you say that you’re okay when you’re in this state?
JW: Your father will be worried. So, go.
GI: Did anyone say that I was going to live here? Turn over now, so that I can change your wet cloth (that she had placed on his forehead to try to break his fever).
JW: Go.
JW: I said go.
GI: Fine, I understand. Since your fever seems to have been reduced anyway. (she gets up, only for JW to grab her arm)
JW: Don’t go.
GI: Let go.
JW: Don’t go.


Meant to be dramatic and romantic, this scene just made me laugh.


LMH feels outmatched in this drama by the veteran actors Son Ye Jin and Ryu Seung Ryong in his scenes with them. His character JW is presented as a rather taciturn man, private, tidy, orderly, and keeping his own counsel. So, he generally has fewer lines than his co-stars. This was both a blessing and a curse since it took a lot of burden off him when he was in most scenes of this drama, but at the same time meant that he needed to be able to emote more without over-acting, a feat that he couldn’t quite pull off here. With his striking good looks, and his character of being a forward thinking architect, the costume department also dress him up in some questionable fashions which did not necessarily do him any favors.


As might be expected by my remarks in the previous paragraph, the mismatch of acting experience and delivery also led to some questionable chemistry between the two leads. GI does her best to be winsome and sweet and feisty, and makes it extremely unbelievable that any man wouldn’t find her adorable even in her “frumpy” phase. JW is tall, good looking, principled, talented, as well as being a good housekeeper and cook. While GI shows us how she’s falling in love with JW, we’re given some scenes of JW brooding and are meant to accept that is because he finds himself thinking about GI which then becomes love. That’s probably a bit harsh since there are some couple-y montages where the OTP are doing friend things and being comfortable together. It just feels too much like we’re being told rather than because I was falling in love as they were falling in love. I found myself rooting for the OTP anyway, mostly because GI was so in love with him rather than because I actually felt that the couple were so meant to be together.


Of the two second leads, they feel wasted in a lot of ways in this drama. Both of the second leads are rather petty and childish in their determination to go after what they want through most of this drama. Having said that, neither of the second leads are completely evil and have their moments of redemption at the end after being frustrated in their attempts time after time.  


In general, I think this drama is good to watch if LMH is your oppa, and you feel the need to watch every one of his projects. He does a much better job with another tall, good looking, talented man with few words character in City Hunter. SYJ has done better work both before and after this project. Having said that it’s also just a mostly light bit of fluff with some really gorgeous people, so probably good to watch on a bored, rainy day.

Plot/story   4
Cast/acting  7
Production value  5
Re-watch value   5


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