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Thespian Review: Wang Ji Hye – Personal Taste

9 Sep

Korean dramas are renowned for the often complicated (and annoying) love triangles that quadrangles and n-angles that seem to take over the stories. Even though we know who wins at the end (duh the two main stars obviously) we still get engaged in thinking that maybe the alternate reality of the second lead getting with the main lead wouldn’t be so bad.

In the case of Personal Taste/ Personal Preference, nothing annoyed me more than one character. She played the lead’s friend-turned-backstabber who falls for the male lead (Lee Min Ho). I hated her so much, not only for her bitchy repulsive attitude towards the lead but also for the actress’ lack of talent. Wang Ji Hye‘s Kim In Hee joins Daniel Henney’s Henry in My Name is Kim Sam Soon as one of the worst acting I’ve seen in a Korean drama.

Kim In Hee is Park Gae In’s friend who at the beginning of the series lived with her at their majestically crafted home. Towards the end, we find out that she marries Gae In’s lover Chang Ryul out of jealousy and spite towards Gae In (a fact not fully revealed until the end of the series). Once Gae In ruins In Hee’s wedding, her marriage falls apart and eventually she tries to move back in with Gae In and later starts gaining interest in Jin Ho (an impressive Lee Min Ho) who falls in love and moves in with Gae In while pretending he’s gay.

A better actress would have added dimension to this character. Gae In isn’t exactly without a heart but rather a hurt one. From the script, she’s more damaged than vindictive. But in Wang Ji Hye’s hands, all the potential subtleties and nuances that this role could have had went out the window. Instead, we got a lot of unintentionally comical and frustrating mugging from Ji Hye. Her wide-eyed displays of anger, irritation, and cattiness are all the same even though they’re clearly not. Even when she’s trying to be cute and flirty, she comes off as childish and unattractive.

The one particular scene where I truly despised her was the scene where she tries to move back in to Gae In’ house, frustrated and empty, but shedding no light at all on why she is who she is. When she’s spouting words at Gae In, we don’t see any strain or tiredness that the moment required nor did we see any deeper moment beneath the surface. She came off as clownish and over-the-top.

Even as the drama tries to give her more things to do, especially after she falls for Jin Ho, we never see any true personality beneath her veneer of over the top eye-rolling and vacant expressions.

If anything, there was one moment where I thought maybe there is some glimmer of talent. The last scene where she tries to seduce Jin Ho is the only scene where I liked her. Here, she’s desperate for his attention and comfort and just about willing to give anything to him so long as she can take him away from Gae In. We see the desperation, the sadness, and the jealousy pent up in her as she tries but fails to win him over. Indeed, I was a tad moved when I saw her reaction to being rejected. Immediately after, when she meets with Gae In, she turns on the ham and face mugging that I couldn’t help but look away. She’s so campy with her wide-eyed stares doing nothing for me even as she starts tearing up.  Although I’m supposed to understand why she does the things to annoy Gae In, her actions up to now have not given us enough direction to get to this point in the story. Quite frankly, her confession of “hate” for Gae-In came too little too late.

Wang Ji-Hye is not a very gifted dramatic actress but I think she has far more talent for comedy. Her lighter moments are comedic, especially at the end when she goes on a blind date. There, her tendencies to be obvious and over-the-top with her acting choices work. This is probably why although I thought I hated the actress, she impressed me so much in Protect the Boss.

I had to write this post because I need to get this out of my system before I begin writing about her performance in Protect the Boss (I’m doing this special Protect the Boss marathon of Thespian Review because I thought each performance was just so damn special that a simple series review wouldn’t suffice). She captures every single bit of bad cliche in Korean Dramas and exaggerates them to the point where she comes out a caricature instead of a character. Her In Hee might be really bad, but she more than makes up for it in Protect the Boss, where everything she’s doing wrong here works wonderfully in that drama. Stay tuned!

–Clarence

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