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Series Review: Heartstrings/ You’ve Fallen For Me

6 Sep

I anticipated this drama so much because it paired up two delightful people from You’re Beautiful: Park Shin Hye and Jung Yong Hwa. My sister loved You’re Beautiful so much that she tried to get me to watch it multiple times. When I did watch the drama, I fell for its charms and quirks while ignoring its problems and faults. With that thought in mind, I came into Heartstrings expecting big things. After 8 weeks of following through with this drama, I came out a little less delighted than I had hoped for.

Heartstrings is about two musicians who follow different paths: Lee Shin (Jung Yong-hwa) is a modern rocker who plays the electric guitar exceptionally well but somehow lacks any tangible emotion apart from cold indifference and Lee Gyu Won (Park Shin Hye), a traditional music major who plays the gayageum.

From the beginning of the series, we are made to believe that they are meant for each other through various coincidences that eventually connect the two. Of course, the leads would have none of these coincidences and are quite annoyed with each other. Eventually they fell in love with Gyu Won falling faster than Lee Shin. Their love is embedded within the whole drama involving a centennial play at the university that both participate in.

Apart from these two main characters, we are also introduced to other characters: Kim Suk Hyun (Song Chang Ui), the director of the school play who takes a liking to Gyu Won’s raw talent, Yoon Soo (So Yi Hyun) a talented ballet dancer-professor who is the object of Shin’s affection, Han Hee Joo (Woo Ri) the prima-donna “bitchy” wannabe-star, and Yeo Joon Hee (Kang Min Hyuk) the slow and perpetually hungry yet handsome and talented drummer of Shin’s band, who falls in love with Hee Joo.

So much of this story is like High School Musical, except far cheesier and at times harder to stomach. While I did enjoy the premise regardless of how riddled in cliche it is, there were just so many moments that truly ruined the whole story for me. One, the annoying interconnected relationships between the characters throughout the story (Gyu Won’s father liking Shin’s mother, eew? so what does that make of the kids? incestuous relationship?), which I thought bordered on the ridiculous. Two, there is clearly only two characters (Gyu Won and Suk Hyun) in this drama and the rest are caricatures played by actors with limited faculties or who do not understand who they’re playing save for a few surface characterizations. Three, the singing is inadequate and despite the awe of the crowd, I never got into them.

The problem with the interconnected relationships that this drama has is the lack of any sort of reality. I dislike, for example, how stalker-like and wholly creepy Shin is around Yoon Soo. I hated that he moved so quickly to Gyu Won from indifference to full-blown adoration. Even the side relationships seem unplanned and tacked on as the show progresses. For example, Hee Joo and Joon Hee’s relationship may have been adorable because of how mean Hee Joo is to him but became unbearable as their romance develops. Hee Joo is not exactly open about herself while Joon Hee remains lost in either hunger or admiration of this girl that we don’t learn anything about them.

Which brings me to my second point. For a drama whose premise is set in the theater, there isn’t any emotional depth or true characterizations of most of these characters. I think the only two characters I thought felt real were Gyu Won and Suk Hyun. While I didn’t particularly find both the actors’ doing magnificent work, I thought they were above everyone else. Gyu Won is down-to-earth and very aware of her limitations. As she discovers more of what she wants in life, we are able to believe that she’s developed a passion for this over the course of the show. Shin Hye lets us into this character’s heart and dreams but she’s still painfully aware of her reality that she may not be as good a star as Hee Joo. Her decision to let Hee Joo be the star while she lipsynchs for her is especially a powerful moment in her performance. Chang Ui is similar in that his character is focused and determined and someone very principled and knowledgeable about what he’s talking. He makes Suk Hyun’s anger palpable and we sympathize with him even though his actions are that of an asshole’s.

The rest of the cast border on annoyance or inadequate. Jung Yong Hwa, the only REAL singer in the group manages to imbue so much genuine emotion and feeling into what he’s singing yet somehow skips all of those feelings and emotion when he acts. His moments as the perfect boyfriend towards the end were cute and full of charm but rather vacant. His pissy mood in the beginning of the drama doesn’t illuminate us on why he’s that way. Woo Ri plays her character like the total snot-nosed bitch you want to slap in high school. She goes for the obvious–eye rolling, eyebrow raising, pouting, snarling, and the arm in arm post with one hip popped. Even when she’s spouting about how this has been her dream, she gives us that know-it-all attitude that doesn’t show us why she works hard. It’s in her more vulnerable moments where I thought she captured the essence of what her character is. She is motivated to prove her worth to her pushy mother and to herself and those moments where she fears she might lose the lead role move me. Min Hyuk is so cute and adorable as the idiot with a heart of gold Joon Hee but that’s about it with this performance. He never shows traces of what makes makes this person tic. I guess I can blame the writing for making such a one-dimensional character.

Even the music seems dry and emotionless. While I admired Yong Hwa’s songs, indeed the only songs that showed any sort of emotion, the others, especially Gyu Won’s are all tepid and vacant. Despite Gyu Won’s face showing deep emotion, we hear nothing of that in the voice and therefore it doesn’t resonate with the audience.

Regardless of its many flaws (and there are tons of them), I couldn’t help but feel charmed about this drama. There is a certain cutesyness attached to it that somehow felt enticing even if the drama never quite caught up with its cutesyness. It felt like Boys over Flowers to me, where the cute charms of its story and characters resonated more with me than the story and the acting. Yes, it’s a vacant and soulless shell of a drama, but what a beautiful shell this thing is.

–Clarence

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One Response to “Series Review: Heartstrings/ You’ve Fallen For Me”

  1. Sakina September 7, 2011 at 4:04 am #

    Mm, I don’t believe I’ll be picking this one up then, thanks. Can you do one about Dream High? I started first episode, don’t know if I want to continue…

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