A Gentleman’s Dignity Review (SPOILERS)

Posted by Stephanie on September 2, 2012


a gentleman's Dignity

So, here we go again. Another show I found myself really enjoying that a lot of other people out there didn’t. It’s okay, I should be used to it by now. As I’ve said before, two out of my top 3 shows are shows that a lot of people don’t like. Going forward I’m thinking about doing a reverse recommendation when checking out new shows. Boring? No plot? Nothing ever happens? Well, obviously this show is for me!

Here are some of the various things I’ve heard regarding A Gentleman’s Dignity:

* No Plot.
* Unnecessary characters
* Long sections of characters staring at each other. (I wish I could find the exact term Tayfan used for this, as it was pretty funny.)
* Dominating heroes
* Irritating leading lady
* Bad acting
* Clunky situations/dialogue

And you know what? I have a very open mind, I can actually see validity in some of these points. I can even add a few of my own.

But just as in Pasta, just as in Me Too, Flower! While I can see these points, I just don’t care. This show made me sigh over the romance, it made me laugh with the characters, and it made me cry with them too. While in the midst watching AGD, I’d want to watch it again from the beginning and when I was done? I was sad I wouldn’t see any more of these characters, that I would have to leave this warm and fuzzy world the writer created. And that, for me, is why I watch Kdrama.

There is so much I love about this show. However, I’m going to try to keep the review from becoming a giant ‘squee’ fest.

As I mentioned in my Top 5 A Gentleman’s Dignity scenes post, this show is all about the individual moments. Narrowing it down to 5 wasn’t hard. Then I posted and was reminded of all the scenes which could have been included. Literally, it could have been a top 10, or even a top 20 post.

I find myself having trouble figuring out where to start first. Let’s go with my favorite, characters.

Kim Eun-sook has created what is absolutely the best friendship in all of Kdrama. This blows any other version of the flower boy 4, be it of the Boys Over Flowers, or Joseon varieties, out of the water. Now, I’ve mentioned this before, Kdramas just don’t devote much if any time to Kfriends. You watch a show and wonder, do these people have any friends at all? Um. No. And if they do, they are an extreme side character.

In A Gentleman’s Dignity, not only is there this group of four friends, but the four and their relationship as a group is really the true focus of this show. Yes, I adore the main romantic couple and if I do a revamp of my favorite couples, they will totally be there, but this group of friends is the show. I loved how each episode opened up with little snippets of their past together. These were some of the great moments of the drama. It added depth and a history which made us be more in contact with these people, so by the time we reach the scene with the death of Yoon’s wife, it had so much more impact.

It also gave depth to the whole Tae San vs. Yoon & Meari conflict. Because we’d seen history we could see what Tae San was giving up by being against the couple, just as we could see why Yoon originally couldn’t make the choice to be with Meari against her brothers wishes. He couldn’t reconcile hurting the people he loved or taking the chance that he would be cast away from the friendship.

Not that I didn’t want to slap Tae San just a little bit. Come on, Meari is 24 years old. Past time for her to be making the decisions for her own life. Every time she did something he didn’t like he’d threaten to send her away. Um. Last I checked you are her brother and not her father. I know this is partially a cultural thing, however, we’ve seen other characters with enough spunk to do what they want rather than what their family wants (see Bwichi in Assorted Gems or Seo Kyung in Pasta)

I have to give this writer credit. There was not a single cardboard character to be found. And there were a LOT of characters. Everybody, whether you liked them or not, had their own goals, motivations, and conflicts. Which is a very necessary thing considering this is a character rather than a plot driven drama. In character dramas, it may seem like there’s nothing going on, but that’s not really the case. In these shows I feel like we get a better view of Korean life. Yes, I know it’s a fictionalized version, but it’s still interesting. With a character driven show, you need to understand it’s going to take it’s time getting around to the point, you know, if there is a point. Weekend dramas do like a good meander.

The main couple still give me a case of the ‘awww….s”. Yep, at the beginning the heroine was very much the typical Kdrama heroine “what do I do? What do I do?” However, right off the bat, with her dealings with the students we know she’s not a pushover. Then as the episodes went on and we got past the dreaded set up, she toned down and became this really likeable and relatable person.

Side note: Just typing out the word relatable, got me thinking. I can relate to these characters. Perhaps it’s because I’m closer to their age bracket than most other Kdrama’s I’ve seen, but I understood these people. Their situations and humor was more real. When characters got embarrassed, it wasn’t over these crazy over the top situations but things I could see happening to myself in real life. Losing the skirt? I was vacationing in Ireland wearing this super cute skirt when a wind storm sent said skirt up and over. The underpants? The house I live in is up for sale. Every now and then I’ll come home after a showing and be mortified over something I left out. See? Life happens.

I usually don’t care for it when the hero falls in love too early. The whole hero chasing the heroine happens a lot in Kdrama. (Trust me, I have a spreadsheet.) I don’t know why I find this one to be different. Perhaps it was because he didn’t suffer a complete personality change. The whole, “I was a jerk, but now I fell in love and am a puppy dog!) thing. The fact he liked her so much even bemused him. He still teased her about it and lived his life the way he wanted to. How much did I hate that scene where she went to return the shoes to him and he had another woman there? Ah, a lot. However I understand where he was coming from with his explanation to her. He loved her, but he wasn’t going to change who he was for her.

I loved his casual ‘marry me’s’. I especially loved them when I realized he wasn’t just asking her to live with him like he said, but to marry him. Now I’m American, I’d just assumed he was actually saying ‘live with him’, which just isn’t as romantic. The casual way, he asks her time and again, after him being such a player for so long, just made me happy.

Which totally put me firmly in his camp when she wore the shoes he gave her to the gathering and lied to everyone that she and Do-jin were dating. Yes, we as watchers knew she had feelings for him, but her wearing those shoes, the symbol of her acceptance of him, in order to lie to everyone? Uncool. Out of everyone in that room, he was the one person who cared the most for her and she thought about his feelings the least. Was it because he had been a player? Whatever it was, I just didn’t care and really disliked her at that moment.

There are some out there who don’t care for his jealous or possessive tendencies. I’m not one of them. I’m not sure if it makes me less of an independent woman, but I loved every second he was jealous. You can tell it wasn’t something he’d ever felt before. He cared enough about her to want her to be with him, to only be the one to see her skin, and for her not to be tempted by anyone else. I think that the Yi Soo was a strong enough character that if she really didn’t like it, she’d let him know. But after being abandoned by her mother, by carrying that one sided love for Tae San, watching him with her best friend, Yi Soo enjoyed experiencing somebody loving her enough to be jealous.

Now to address the vast amounts of deeply staring into each other’s eyes the main couple did. I’m cool with it. But then again, I’m corny that way. If you remember, I’m the one who wrote romance novels for 5 years. The romantic part of my heart ate that up!

Now if I like this show so much, will it take the place of something on my Top 3? Sadly no. Why? It’s that sagging middle or in other words the angst ridden plot twist regarding the secret son. I don’t have issues so much with the fact that he has this son who comes out of nowhere–after the lifestyle he’d had–it couldn’t be super surprising when a teenager arrives saying “daddy!” Nope, it was the whole, he had to break up with her for her own good, plotline. Okay, this may be another cultural thing. The writer did a pretty good job showing that his fears weren’t unfounded, but to just up and dump the woman you love without giving her a choice is unnecessarily self-sacrificing. And they were apart for way too long. I hate those conflicts where it’s “If only they talked about it,” everything would be solved and this show had more than its share.

Now, we all knew something heinous was coming our way considering the couple got together with 8 episodes left of the drama. This is just a recipe for gloom and destruction in the Kdrama world. Like our heroine, we were just waiting for the other shoe to drop.
I hate to say it, especially with saying such other good things about this writer, it’s a little bit of lazy writing. Maybe not lazy. Predictable. What was lazy was the very convenient memory loss.

Don’t get me wrong. I loved all the scenes that recording pen gave us. If there was an award for best inanimate object, I’d totally give it to the recording pen. I actually also like the character trait the hero has of forgetting things during time of super-stress. I’ve never seen this before. The downside? The writer didn’t take it far enough. She had the great concept of the pen, and knew how awesome it would be in the story and just threw in a reason for it. How do we know this?

The only time he loses his memory in this drama is when he first kisses Yi Soo. Hm. He was pretty cool that whole night. He kissed the woman he loves. How is that stressful enough to lose his memory? And if he loses it during this happy scene, why the hell didn’t he lose it later on when all the bad stuff happens? Come on. He finds out he has a hidden son, he loses the woman he loves, mopes around for like 3 episodes and nary a memory blip? I call lazy writing.

Let’s talk a little about acting. How freaking awesome the acting is in this show? Most of these actors have a long history in either dramas or film and their experience is on the screen for you to see. They all have some great comedic timing and don’t care about looking dumb.

Would this show had been as good with other actors? Nope. This show is fun-ny. A lot of times I was laughing not at what was written but the expression on the actors face or a look the actors sent each other. Things not in the script.

Now I hate to admit it, but when I first started watching this drama, I had been so excited about seeing the show, I just had a feeling I was going to like it, however, once the show started, I actually tweeted “Just realized I know nothing about this show except it’s about middle aged men who aren’t really cute”. And I meant it, I didn’t think anyone was cute. However, as the show went on and I fell in love with the characters, yep, there is some total cuteness here.

I was really impressed with Kim Jeong-nan, who played Jo Rok’s wife. Funny, during my first watching I was absolutely certain she played the sister in How To Meet a Perfect Neighbor. Then I thought about it a little more and realize nope, that was a different lady, Kim Jeong-nan played the sister in Creating Destiny. During that review I praised the work she did and I’ll do it again. This lady is really good. Her character, at first, wasn’t as fleshed out as the others were, however as the story went on, I really liked Min-sook and liked what the writer did with her.

She was so proud and yet loved her wayward husband enough to stay with him all those years. But then once he stopped cheating, she realized she was never going to trust him again, no matter how much she loved him. She had enough pride in herself to know she didn’t want to live the rest of her life looking over her shoulder. That takes guts. To know what you want and still be able to turn away because in the end you know it’s not going to make you happy. Yes, they end up together in the end, but Jo Rok has to fight to win back her love and trust. So well done. I will definitely look for other shows with her in it. Looking at her filmography, she’s a steady character actor.

I enjoyed the special effects in the AGD. I’ve noticed with Kdrama, if a show has special effects, generally they are limited to the first half of the drama. This has to be because of how quickly these dramas are put out. By the end of the drama, a lot of times they are shooting the same day the episode premieres. Hence, no time for fancy-dancy effects. AGD is no different. In the first couple of episodes, there were two scenes which sent the main couple into a field when the hero looked at the heroine (i.e. was falling in love with her.) These shots were so pretty!

The heroine got her own version of this a little later. After their first kiss, she’s in a bubble bath thinking about their past encounters. We see flashes of these scenes and around them floats the bubbles of her bath. So cute.

Now the only problem I had with the bubble scene is that his ‘field of dreams’ is him falling in love with her. Her bubble bath should do the same thing. We as viewers believe that is her falling in love with him. And maybe it is but she doesn’t realize it? She should. Of course, just a few scenes later, we have the unfortunate shoe scene where she’s obviously forgotten her bubble-bath memories and proceeds to break the hero. BOO! Bad heroine!

So here’s me. Trying to explain this show. I don’t know how I did, I’m pretty sure I left out a lot. But how many aww’s and squee’s can you put into one review before people get bored. One more? Do you have space for one more?

The last episode. I love a show which insists in wrapping up everything in a tidy neat package with pretty little bows. The last episode of AGD gave a little time with each individual character and storyline as if it were one big epilogue. And I do love me some happy time epilogues. I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve seen the engagement flash mob and have cried. Don’t ask. I’ll just embarrass myself. Everyone is there, happy, and working together.

Yep, I’d better not think about it anymore. I’m too busy for more tears.

Anyway. Here’s the usual wrap up, as if you need it. Will I watch this again? Heck yeah, I’m forcing myself not to restart it right now. Will I recommend this to others. Again. Heck yeah. With the caveat that if they liked Pasta, the chances of them likening A Gentleman’s Dignity is fairly high. If they don’t like Pasta? Well, maybe they might want to move along. If this show is not in my top 3, where would it land? Well, I’ll have to check the spread sheet. It will definitely find a home in my Top 10, but if I look closely enough, it may reach Top 5. I’ll keep you updated.

I truly feel bad for whatever show I watch next. I have a feeling it’s not going to have much of a chance against AGD in my affection. Oh well.

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