Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Review:// Emergency Couple

Emergency Couple 응급남녀 poster image.

What started out as an excruciating War of the Roses type of torture, turned into the highlight of my week. Emergency Couple delivered on so many levels that it was easy to forgive the shortcuts it took. After getting through the set up of the first episode, this drama's charm grew as it went along, creating an unexpectedly sweet atmosphere.

Song Ji Hyo 송지효 and Choi Jin Hyuk 최진혁 as bride and groom.

"In Buddhism, it's said that a husband and wife meet each other after 7000 'gup' of fate. 'Gup' means the time it takes for a single rain drop of every thousand years to pierce through a rock as big as a house. So marriage is something of a miracle."

We start off with a pair of medical students, Oh Jin Hee (Song Ji Hyo) and Oh Chang Min (Choi Jin Hyuk), getting married without friends and family present, as theirs is a marriage that has not met with approval. Specifically, Chang Min's family is so against it that they cut him off, derailing his future as a doctor. This misfortune, added to the couple's immaturity, leads to destructive and just plain mean behavior culminating in divorce.

Chang Min grabs Jin Hee's arm in confrontation. / Chang Min hugs Jin Hee from behind in a vulnerable moment.

Six years later to their dismay, the two reunite as interns in the same emergency room. Jin Hee is the underdog as the initial impression she makes is quite poor, and everyone focuses on her age, whereas Chang Min is regarded as a golden boy.

As expected, the relationship of divorcees is a complex one, especially when they readdress their true feelings from a more mature perspective.  Ordinarily I would be against a recoupling because it's impossible to recapture magic when enough hurt has extinguished it. But Choi Jin Hyuk's portrayal of Chang Min was just so touching, it gave me hope, when realistically there would be none.

Choi Jin Hyuk making various over the top facial expressions.

Speaking of Choi Jin Hyuk, I absolutely loved him in this comical role. He was really able to let loose and get crazy in way I've never seen him do before. Whether he was being subtle or over the top, he won me over as he got all the proper emotions across.

Choi Jin Hyuk lifting weights / taking a shower.

There were many sexy and touching headshots to make any fangirl happy, but the eye candy scenes definitely had me sit up and take notice. Were it not for the weightlifting shot, I would not have realized just how buff Choi Jin Hyuk's arms are. And although the shower scene was too short, it's in there, and that's all that matters. Fangirls rejoice!

Jin Hee stares up from the floor at the circle of colleagues staring back down at her.

Song Ji Hyo was perfect for the contradictory character of Oh Jin Hee. Strong yet vulnerable, silly yet competent, Jin Hee found herself in a variety of humiliating circumstances, yet she managed to prevail in spite of it all.

The cast of side characters was quite complimentary to the plot, and though their own storylines were not well developed, they did serve to further demonstrate the main couple's growth through their issues. There was even a Second Leading Lady, who didn't get as entangled as I would have liked, but she made a meaningful contribution to the story.

The stigma of divorce is also addressed in a compassionate light, which is something I've been seeing more of in recent years. Hopefully this is a reflection of a changing attitude in South Korea toward divorcees. It seems that women especially become persecuted, not just socially, but professionally when it comes to this issue, so I'm glad it's being given consideration through the entertainment industry.

Song Ji Hyo as Oh Jin Hee and Lee Pil Mo 이필모 as Gook Chun Soo with his head on her shoulder as they ride the bus, her falling into him at the hospital, and her cleaning gum off of his pants in an awkward position.

Second Leading Man, Gook Chun Soo (Lee Pil Mo), played a humorous straight man, and by "straight" I mean the serious one in a comic duo. He got surprised and shaken by the happy accidents that occurred with Jin Hee, and developed albeit in baby steps, though them.

Writer Choi Yoon Jung played it just a bit too safe with this couple. I think if she had taken things a little further, it would have upped the tension and made the drama more impactful. Though it would have also increased the suffering of everyone involved, including the viewer, so perhaps it all worked out for the best.

Kwon Joon Young 권준영 as Kim Gook stares up at Lee Mi Young 이미영 as Jo Yang Ja. / Park Joon Geum 박준금 as Yoon Sung Sook looking young and stylish.

I have to take a minute to acknowledge the mothers and Baby Gook (Kwon Joon Young) because they were so entertaining. I'm not sure if it was a just an adorable coincidence every time the fluffy-haired Gook stared wide-eyed at whomever was speaking, but he was hilarious and enhanced every scene he was in.

Jo Yang Ja (Lee Mi Young) and Yoon Sung Sook (Park Joon Geum), Jin Hee and Chang Min's mothers were heartfelt, protective and aggressive, and had a wonderful chemistry with everyone they interacted with. And I swear neither of them has aged in years!

Kang Gary 강개리 and Song Ji Hyo give thumbs up on the set of Emergency Couple 응급남녀.

The Monday Couple was reunited with Kang Gary's delightful cameo in episode six. There were many great cameos as well including DickPunks and Narsha. For those not familiar with Running Man, Kang Gary and Song Ji Hyo have been cast members on the variety show since 2010.

Oh Jin Hee and Oh Chang Min on the roof of the hospital with a view of the city behind them.

Emergency Couple was beautifully shot, including artsy lighting, focus and location shots that pulled the audience into the story on another level rather than distracting from the plot. Though the medical situations seemed to be superficially covered, the action was followed well. There was shifting focus at times lending itself to the realism of an emergency room documentary, but the bright lighting gave it a dreamy, pleasing aesthetic.

Both playful and tender, the soundtrack played an effective role in portraying the emotions of the series with artists such as Im Jung Hee, Park Shi Hwan, Joo Ah, 3rd Coast, and yes, Choi Jin Hyuk.

"Right and wrong answers co-exist in every decision. Wise people make a choice and make it the right answer. Foolish people regret the decision and make it the wrong decision. There is no right answer in life. There is only the process to make it the right answer."

Emotions expressed though feet sticking out of the blanket; one set of toes splayed, while the other are curled in.

I laughed out loud throughout the drama as fresh humor was expertly portrayed in ways that I wasn't expecting. Through it all, the characters developed, gained wisdom, and moved towards a satisfying resolution. Thinking back on it, I can't recommend Emergency Couple enough; it's just that good. And be sure to watch the bloopers at the end of episode 21!

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