THE SHORT VERDICT:
A light-as-air rom-com that rides more on atmosphere than plot. The ensemble cast has a collectively impressive resume, but don’t expect too much or you are likely to be disappointed.
This drama is likely to disintegrate under too much scrutiny, but if you’re in the mood to space out a little with something that doesn’t require much thinking, this might be your cup of tea.
I started out bemused, but ended up enjoying this more than I expected to.
THE LONG VERDICT:
Honestly, when I started this drama, it took me several attempts before I finished the first episode.
I found the characters contrived and annoying, not to mention childish for their age. The men were basically hormonal teenagers in ahjusshi’s bodies, and not in a cute way. I particularly found Kim Ha Neul’s character Seo Yi Soo bewildering.
I also found the red dress incident in episode 1 between the leads unbelievable and cringe-worthy.
I mean, seriously?
Your dress unravels so much that you lose the back half of your skirt, and you don’t feel a thing? That’s unbelievable.
And then, the writers decide that this is what happens next to mask it? Cringe, cringe. cringe.
And then “random stranger” who she’s got her butt up against buys her a tablecloth and wraps it around her like a skirt, then decorates it with a pin, then walks off with a flourish? So. Unbelievable.
I know, I know. Unbelievable is the name of the game in rom-com meet-cutes. But I guess this was just a bit too much for me. Especially when it involved Yi Soo being played dumb.
Just looking at this screencap makes me cringe.
I think I finished episode 1 in 4 separate sittings. And then I wondered whether to just drop this drama entirely, since I wasn’t feeling the cute that it was trying so hard to serve up.
But I decided to hang in there, and by the time I reached the halfway point, I found that I was enjoying this drama a lot more than I thought I would.
Did anything change drastically since episode 1? No, not really.
I guess it was my mood that changed. Somehow, I was in the mood for light romance, without a need for anything bigger or more epic.
Yes, there was still a bunch of stuff I didn’t like, and here’s a list, just to keep track:
- I still found Seo Yi Soo annoying. I particularly didn’t like the way she spoke. It made me feel like she was trying to act cute, but instead she came off kind of dumb. That, or she had speech issues.
- I found Lee Jong Hyuk’s character Lee Jung Rok really annoying, with his OTT characterization and incorrigible cheating. And the hair. Don’t even get me started on the hair.
- I disliked Yi Soo’s housemate Hong Se Ra (Yoon Se Ah) and wondered why Yi Soo would want to stay friends with someone so unpleasant, self-centered and oblivious.
- I liked Me Ah Ri (Yoon Jin Yi) for being spunky and upfront about her Oppa crush on Choi Yoon (Kim Min Jong), but I didn’t like how she was treated, both by her brother Tae San (Kim Soo Ro) and her crush. They basically decided that it was a bad idea and treated her like a misbehaving child.
- In fact, this type of I-know-better male thinking rears its head again later in the drama, to separate our lead couple. So annoying.
I actually think there’s more, but I think I’ll stop here coz it’s getting to be such a downer, remembering all the stuff I disliked about this drama.
Basically, after I let my brain check out, I found stuff that I could like.
The tone is light and fluffy, with the leads prone to fits of imagination that give us some amusing &/or surreal fantasy sequences.
I particularly enjoyed Jang Dong Gun’s character Kim Do Jin’s fits of fantasy when he’s alone with Yi Soo. He imagines that the whole world fades away and they’re in a meadow together. So pretty.
The atmosphere of the drama is pleasant, with a nice color palette and an easy rhythm that basically hums along quite merrily. Nothing earth-shaking, just a pleasant everyday sort of a feel.
There’s a sexual undercurrent that shows up now and again, thanks to Jang Dong Gun’s ability to do smoldering stares.
I know Jang Dong Gun’s a big movie star and probably the hugest star in Korea, but I’m not as partial to movies as I am to dramas, and I started this drama never having seen him in anything before. Yep, you read that right. Impossible, I know.
So while everyone else was swooning over Jang Dong Gun, to my eyes, I thought he looked a bit like a drug addict, coz he’s kind of skinny and he’s got a slightly skinny sort of gaunt feel to his features, and his skin tone didn’t look healthy. I wondered what the fuss was about.
And then I realized. The man can act with his eyes, and his smoldering stares are impressive.
Throw in a couple of up-close-and-personal moments between our lead couple and things suddenly got a lot more palatable.
No, he didn’t have any choco abs hidden under his shirt, though I salute him for still doing shirtless scenes, given the high choco abs standard that other actors have set in recent years.
It was his confidence and the smoldering eyes that made him sexy.
He intrigued me enough that I added All About Eve to my mental list of old dramas to check out. Someday.
I’m curious to see what the world fell in love with. At the time, he would’ve been around 28, so perhaps his face didn’t have the pallor of a drug addict’s then? 😛
Another thing that I did like was the flashback scenes that opened each episode. Typically, they would feature our F44 in their earlier years. Most of the time, I found these flashbacks a hoot.
Here they are, back in their high school uniforms, in all their ahjusshi glory:
The younger cast members also brought a youthful energy to the show, which I appreciated.
So here’s a shout-out to Kim Woo Bin and Lee Jong Hyun, our resident youths with noona crushes who didn’t succeed at their one-sided loves but found friendship in each other:
Also, not forgetting the cameo by Jung Yong Hwa, who probably had CNBlue fangirls squealing at his appearance:
When I finished A Gentleman’s Dignity, I realized that it’s one of those shows that doesn’t have a huge amount of plot, but it has a pleasant enough atmosphere that I’m not discounting the (very faint) possibility of revisiting it sometime in the future.
The likelihood is low, but I’m not dismissing it entirely. And that’s saying a lot, considering how I felt about the show when I first started.
THE FINAL VERDICT:
Worth checking out if your brain needs a vacation, &/or you’re a Jang Dong Gun fan.
FINAL GRADE: B-