THE SHORT VERDICT:
Her Lovely Heels is a short little mini-drama that boasts more atmosphere than actual story, more pretty than plot.
At just 12 short minutes per episode, the 10-episode mini-drama is literally only as long as a movie, yet tries to pack in as much as a regular drama in terms of OTP milestones, drama tropes and PPL. All of this, combined with its solid production values, pleasant OST and its earnest-but-stiff cast, makes watching Her Lovely Heels feel akin to watching a long infomercial. Show doesn’t have much meat on its bones, but it’s pretty, and it gets to its destination (while managing to hawk its products).
So why did I check this out at all? Why, for the Hong Jong Hyun Pretty, of course. I mean, just lookie at the Handsome:
THE LONG VERDICT:
If we were to think of a solid, good, regular 16-episode drama as a painting, it would be a painting that has taken pains to create light and shadow, as well as texture and nuance on its 16-hour-long canvas. Shapes and outlines are carefully filled in with color and richness, and the end result is a picture that speaks volumes and looks true to life; feels true to life.
The thing about Her Lovely Heels, is that it’s a 10-episode mini-drama that has a total canvas of about 2 hours, yet it tries to paint the same caliber of story as her full-fledged drama cousins. So how do you paint the same picture in an eighth of the normal running time? You sketch, basically. You draw outlines and shapes, and fill them in as best as you can, in the limited time that you have. But there’s just no way of creating an end product that remotely looks or feels true to life, coz you just don’t have the time. It can still be pretty; it’s just not quite the same.
At just 12 minutes per bite-sized episode, Her Lovely Heels is an easy watch. And if you can dial down your expectations from Full Painting to a simple connect-the-dots sketch, it’s not half bad.
THE NOT-SO-GREAT STUFF
Bare Bones, Trope-Filled Writing
The main trouble with trying to be a drama, at the length of a movie, is that we end up with an oversimplified narrative and flat characters.
Mountains are regularly made out of molehills coz Show is gunning for Big Dramatic Tropey Moments scored by swelling emotion-filled music, and will use whatever means necessary to get there, even if it means making the characters get all upset over nothing much in particular.
In theory, it actually sounds vaguely attractive, in that we just keep getting lots of story milestone payoffs, without having to do the time. In practice, though, it doesn’t work out so well. Because of the lack of build-up and context-building, the payoff feels hollow instead of well-deserved. The lack of story substance between story milestones also makes the tropes and the PPL stick out like sore thumbs coz there’s no buffer to help make them feel more organic.
Instead, we get a sea of drama tropes that consistently feel rather mechanical. There are so many, in fact, that it feels like the writer is just patching together bits and pieces of every classic kdrama ever, and shaking it all together, hoping for the best. Looking on the bright side, you might find it a little more fun if you watched this while playing Spot The Trope.
Here, let me give you a little taste.
The Fateful First Encounter:
Stuck Stiletto Heel…
…which eventually lands Heroine in an Ungainly Fall:
…Only to have her torn dress and stockings shielded by a Hero Backhug, with Bonus Overcoat thrown in, and Meaningful Ballad swelling in the background:
And that’s just the very first episode. If Show manages to cram so many drama tropes into just 15 minutes, imagine how many you’d be counting in 2 hours? I didn’t even get to show you the 3-way wrist grab either.
Well ok, fine. Here you go:
There are times when bad scripts are elevated by good acting (remember Woob in Heirs? He literally gave dimension and depth to Young Do that wasn’t in the script). Sadly, this is not one of those times. The cast of Her Lovely Heels just aren’t experienced or skilled enough to do the same for this paper-thin story.
Han Seung Yeon is our wide-eyed heroine, and while pretty, has limited range. You can totally see that she’s trying hard, though. But that in itself is a problem. With acting, you want to look like you’re not trying.
Her extremely large eyes and her very toothy appearance also didn’t help. There’d be scenes where she’d be crying and upset, and all I could see were Eyes and Teeth.
To be fair, Hong Jong Hyun is, sadly, also on the stiff end of the scale. I luff this boy (have you taken a look at just how much I luff this boy?), and I really, really want him to do well. I’m hoping that given experience and exposure, both in dramas and in variety, that he’ll eventually be able to deliver more depth and nuance in his characters. In this show, though, I just have to be content that he’s bringing the pretty.
Besides general tendencies towards stiffness, I’m sad to report that hands-down, the hardest scene to watch was this kiss scene.
As a still, it looks fine. As a scene, though, it’s literally painful to watch. Jong Hyun goes for some movement in delivering the kiss, but it doesn’t translate at all. I can see how awkward he feels, and he’s kissing her very tentatively in what is supposed to be a hot sort of kiss. Poor baby. He must’ve felt extremely horrified at having to kiss his leading lady. 😛
Y’know what, though, Jong Hyun-sshi.. I’d be happy to help you, er.. practice. Just sayin’. *cough*
Lack of Emotional Resonance
The sketchy writing and the B-grade acting combine to give us an end product that just doesn’t resonate emotionally on any level.
This is the kind of problem that I have with certain movies. The limited screentime isn’t used wisely, and we get the highlights without meaningful emotional payoff.
With all the tropes sprinkled throughout this mini-drama, it feels like we’re just hitting all the main milestones in a big hurry with zero emotional payoff coz we haven’t had time to build up to anything. It literally feels like we’re just going through the motions.
With the intricacies of a full drama stripped away, and acting which is earnest at best, Her Lovely Heels basically feels like a B-grade sort of production in terms of the writing, even though the production values could pass for an A-grade sort of drama. Which is why I say watching this feels like watching an infomercial instead of a drama or a movie.
STUFF THAT HELPED SWEETEN THE DEAL
It’s Short & Sweet
On the upside, Her Lovely Heels is super short, which makes it an easy watch. With each episode clocking in at just 12-15 minutes, I easily zoomed through half the series in one evening.
Another upside? With everything in drama shorthand, the angst isn’t even all that angsty. I guess that’s the side effect of not having emotional resonance? Your highs aren’t as high as they could or should be, but neither are your lows as low either?
Look at me, being all positive and everything 😉
It’s Prettily Filmed
For all its flaws, Her Lovely Heels is very prettily filmed. Pretty much everything looks great. The lighting, the color palette; indoor shots, outdoor scenes; people and settings; everything is just Very Pretty.
I randomly pulled some screenshots to show you guys just how pretty everything is. Take a lookie:
Nicely easy on the eyes, isn’t it? And I haven’t even gotten to the Handsome yet. 😉
Hong Jong Hyun is Handsome
Y’all already know why this show is even on my radar at all, right? It can be summed up in this one easy sentence: Hong Jong Hyun is handsome.
Heh. What can I say? I came into this a focused fangirl.
And since the show is really rather underwhelming in so many other ways, it’s only right that I – we! – get to savor all the Jong Hyun Pretty.
Here’s a spasm of Jong Hyun Handsome. Doesn’t he look lovely? ❤
THE LAST WORD
If anything, the show is straightforward. Nothing very complex going on here, just pretty people framed prettily, while they try – mostly in vain – to elevate a simple story to levels of emotional resonance.
The ending leans cheesy, but it’s sweet overall, and importantly, that’s the aftertaste that the show leaves.
Of course, I can’t deny that part of the lingering sweet is coz in the end, we get to see a happy, in love, more romantically assertive side to Jong Hyun’s hero character. And I dig the assertive intensity on Jong Hyun:
Yes, the kissing still needs work (& for the record, I’m still volunteering to help with all the practice!), but I can’t deny that the smoldering intensity in his gaze is very sexy indeed. ❤
THE FINAL VERDICT:
Cotton candy through and through. There’s no meat to sink your teeth into, but it’s sweet, light, fluffy, and oh-so-pretty. A quick, no-calorie side dish that shouldn’t hurt your main drama diet.
FINAL GRADE: C-