Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Secret Garden - 2010

After watching two excellent K-series, Faith and Boys Over Flowers I was wondering which series to latch on to next.  I was recommended Secret Garden by my fellow blogger and friend, Dustedoff. I did not really know the lead actors in this series but was familiar with Lee Philip who had an important role in Faith.  I had loved him there and was eager to watch him once more.

Secret Garden starts with montage shots of a pretty garden and a rather magical looking rain with lightening in the background.  We zoom into the high-class home of Kim Joo Won (Hyun Bin). Kim Joo-Won is the CEO of a very high-end departmental store called Loel.  His grandfather owns the store and he is next in line.
Kim Joo Won
He is a pragmatic fellow, very arrogant and likes to speak his mind.  His family has arranged a match for him.  He tells the girl, Yoon Seul, straight away that he does not believe in love and is happy to let the family find someone for him.  Yoon Seul (Kim Sa Rang) is perplexed by this.  She wants to marry Kim Joo Won too and puts up with his abrupt behavior.
Yoon Seul
Yoon Seul has a secret.  She once dated Kim Joo Won's cousin, Oska (Yoon Sang-hyun).  She was badly jilted by him and is in a vengeful mood.  Oska is a Halayu star and has many followers.  But his popularity is fading.  He is the mascot of Loel Store.  He is short tempered and prone to throwing tantrums and getting his way.  He is a compulsive womanizer too.  He is forever getting into trouble for dating and dumping women.  He had been very serious about Seul though.  He had dumped her because she had gone off to the USA with another man.
Oska with a girl
Oska has fallen foul with a girl he has just jilted.  She claims to have pictures of them both and is threatening to expose him by giving a press statement against him.  Oska asks his cousin Kim Joo Won to go and find the actress Park Chae Rin (Baek Seung-hee) and detain her so she may not be able to go to the press conference.  When Kim Joo Won reaches the shoot location, he is pointed to Gil Ra Im by mistake.  Gil Ram Im (Ha Ji Won) is the stunt double for the heroine.  Kim Joo-won takes Gil Ra Im away with him,
Gil Ra Im and Kim Joo Won

Gil Ra Im is creeped out by Kim Joo Won but is tempted by the promise to meet Oska whom she adores.  Kim Joo Won is captivated by Gil Ra Im but cannot figure out why.  He is the scion of a rich family.  He is just too upper-class to like a tomboyish, shabbily dressed girl like Gil Ra Im.  He is dismissive of his feelings but is drawn to her anyway.  He continues to outrage Gil Ra Im by his high-handed arrogant behaviour.

Im Jong Soo
Im Jong Soo (Lee Phillip) is a stunt director.  He is very protective of his team in general and of Gil Ra Im in particular.  He is in love with her completely but being her boss he does not want to seem exploitative by dating her.  He is very jealous of Kim Joo Won for hovering around her and tries to make him back off.

Gil Ra Im is an orphan and has to work very hard to make ends meet. She lives with her friend Ah Young (Yoon In-Na) who works as an attendant in Loel Store.  She is besotted by Oska and listens to his songs to keep her spirits up.  She is both fascinated and repelled by Kim Joo Won.   

On a trip to Jeju Island Gil Ra Im and Kim Joo Won are stunned to discover that their bodies have changed.  This results in several funny situations when Gil Ra Im is grossed out by having to go to the bathroom and Kim Joo Won has to learn how to wear a bra.  They are forced to live in each others' world and wind up developing a better understanding of each other.  Their friends are puzzled by sudden uncharacteristic behavior as Gil Ra Im turns brash and manly and Kim Joo Won becomes polite and well-mannered.

Despite the body change, Kim Joo Won and Gil Ra Im are still not ready to fall in love.  Most times Joo Won is very blunt with Ra Im which is very insulting to her.  She keeps kicking him when he annoys her. Poor Director Im hovers in the background, unable to say anything to Ra Im.  Oska is the only one who is gallant towards the girl.  He becomes friends with her and always treats her very nicely.  At one point, Oska brings Ra Im home in his car and flirts with her sweetly while Joo Won and Director Im watch from the sidelines.  Despite the example, they do not stop being gruff with the girl.

It is much later in the story that Ra Im finds that she is indeed in love with Kim Joo Won.  She decides to take matters in hand and go and talk to Kim Joo Won.
Gil Ra Im dances with Kim Joo Won
The path of their love is not easy, thanks to the disparity in their backgrounds. Kim Joo Won's mother is NOT pleased about the development and tries to do all she can to keep the couple apart.  They also have to deal with this strange situation where their bodies are suddenly interchanged.

Oska finds he is still in love with Seul.  She is not easy to please and Oska must make major changes in himself before she thaws.  Oska has to grapple with his failing popularity and tries to claw back to the top slot.
Rock Star Oska
The plot uses several fairy tales to illuminate the story of the lead characters.  At one time, Gil Ra Im is Alice who has stumbled into the wonderland of Rich People's World.  At another time, she is the Little Mermaid who cannot fit into the life of the Prince.  Then she is Cinderella who gets to spend time with her Prince with the help of a Fairy Godmother (Oska).

The series are beautifully shot. The scenes are well arranged and directed.  The acting is superlative.  Ha Ji Won is a complete winner in each scene.  She is amazingly pretty and very expressive. Hyun Bin scores with his faultless portrayal of a Rich Boy puzzled by his feelings for a Poor Girl.

I was captivated by Oska's character.  He is childish and spoilt.  But he has a warm heart and is the only one to treat Gil Ra Im with such respect.

Lee Philip as Director Im, a boss too grim to propose to his protege, was as delicious as ever.  It would have been so simple, I felt, if Ra Im had fallen back in love with her Director.  They would have really got along well.

The series dragged majorly in the middle.  It was as if the couple would never fall in love and the story would not move a centimeter. I nearly gave it up then.  I was prevailed upon by my mother to stick with it and I am glad I did.  The story recovered its zing in the 14th episode and from then it was all fine.  There was a satisfactory explanation about why Kim Joo Won was so afraid of elevators. His past story was brought up and explained which added a lot of meat to the plot.  The starting episodes and the final ones are very lyrical and beautiful and take away the sting of the slightly draggy middle.