MY LOVELY SAM-SOON – DVD review

“My Lovely Sam-Soon” is a hilarious, yet touching romantic comedy about a woman who is tough and opinionated on the outside, yet soft and craving love on the inside. It follows her as she takes control of her life and struggles to realize her dreams.

However, the series starts off with our heroine experiencing an epic low point in her life. 30 years old, unemployed, slightly overweight – for Sam-Soon, it feels like things could not get any worse. Naturally, she is proven wrong when, on Christmas eve, she catches her boyfriend cheating on her. As if being dumped during a very public and humiliating argument in a hotel lounge wasn’t bad enough, the whole horrible break-up scene is witnessed by a guy named Jin-Heon. He is handsome, arrogant, and totally unsympathetic to Sam-Soon’s situation. He mocks her, and makes her feel even worse about herself, if that is possible. Their first meeting is an unpleasant chance encounter, but it is not the last they will see of each other.

Jin-Heon and Sam-Soon are destined to meet again, and this time the tables are turned. Jin-Heon is the son of a luxury hotel owner and is faced with constant pressure from his mother to inherit the family business and take over. However, he has his own dream and instead of running the hotel, he owns and runs a fancy French restaurant. Just when his restaurant starts doing well, Jin-Heon’s top pastry chef suddenly quits. This is a disaster, and Jin-Heon is desperate to find a new pastry chef to fill the open position.

Sam-soon just happens to be a Le Cordon Bleu-trained pastry chef, and she is in need of a job. She runs into Jin-Heon when she is applying for a position in the kitchen of his mother’s hotel. Once Jin-Heon learns Sam-soon is a pastry chef, an excellent sequence involving begging, hair-cutting, taxi-hijacking, and cake-flinging ensues. The result is Sam-soon setting aside their unfortunate initial meeting and reluctantly agreeing to work as the master pastry chef at Jin-Heon’s restaurant.

The relationship between Sam-Soon and Jin-Heon is a fiery one. They argue constantly. Sam-soon is a very assertive and stubborn person, and the fact that Jin-Heon is now her boss does not stop her from speaking her mind and standing up to him. However, she does have some issues to sort through. She is the oldest person working at the restaurant— even Jin-Heon is 3 years younger than her— and her love life is still going nowhere. Yet for Sam-Soon, things begin to look up. Perhaps Jin-Heon is not as bad a guy as she originally thought…

For Jin-Heon, Sam-soon is a baffling and completely different sort of person than he is used to dealing with. He is quite the ladies man, and is more accustomed to having women fall all over him. Sam-Soon does not fit this mold. However, in spite of his popularity, Jin-Heon has some problems and ghosts in his own past that he needs to resolve before he can move forward. The pressure from his mother to take over the hotel business and get married is strong. Can Sam-Soon be the one to help him change?

This series has some obvious similarities to Bridget Jones, with its flawed, weight-conscious leading female character. Like Bridget, Sam-soon is hopeless when it comes to romantic matters, and has a vulnerable heart. Yet when it comes to her professional life, Sam-Soon is a more confident and capable personality. She is an excellent pastry chef and she knows it. That is a source of power for her that she is not afraid to use. As for her other issues, she recognizes her problems early on and proactively takes steps to try and change herself and her life.

A Korean drama would not be complete without a love triangle. Sure enough, rivals appear to make things more complicated. Throw in some amusing supporting characters and some amazing food, and you have a very enjoyable, worthwhile series with some crazy ups and downs.

Kim Seon-Ah, who plays Sam-Soon, reportedly gained weight for this role (again, drawing comparison to Renée Zellweger as Bridget Jones) but really, if that is how she looks after gaining weight, she must have been a toothpick before. She looks perfectly normal to my eyes, so the constant problem of her weight throughout the series is somewhat baffling. However, her performance is brilliant. She perfectly captures Sam-Soon’s tough personality, but gives her a believable vulnerable side. Hyeon Bin as Jin-Heon is handsome and dashing. Newcomer Daniel Henney manages to get through the whole series speaking only English, and while his acting is not quite on the level of the rest of the cast, it is a decent debut that promises better performances in the future. Jeong Ryeo-Won as Hee-Jin is pretty, and also shows off an impressive grasp of English.

“My Lovely Sam-Soon” is 16 episodes spread across 6 disks. Each episode is about an hour long, for a total running time of 960 minutes. It has everything I can ask for in a romantic comedy. Truly likable leads, charming supporting characters, excellent writing, good comedy, and enough twists and turns to keep me wanting more.

Video:
“My Lovely Sam-Soon” is presented in 1.33:1 full-screen, and looks wonderful. The picture is crisp, bright and clean. I did not notice any problems with the video quality.

Audio:
There is only one audio track available in this release – a strong Dolby Digital 2.0 Korean track. This is paired with an excellent, easy to understand, English subtitle track. “My Lovely Sam-Soon” is a romantic comedy. There are no spectacular action sequences, so a full-blown 5.1 surround track is not really needed. Dialog and background music make up the bulk of the audio, and this track suits that purpose just fine.

Extras:
As a bonus feature, YA Entertainment generously provides 2 full episodes— that’s a good 120 minutes— of another drama series they have released, “Dae Jang Geum,” also known as “Jewel in the Palace.” It is an engrossing historical piece that is also worth checking out.

–Miscellaneous–
This set comes packaged in a very sturdy custom box. There is a red strap on the top with which you can lift out an equally sturdy section that holds two multi-disk keepcases. There is also a small, yet cute, Sam-Soon mouse pad included with the DVDs. Nice bonus!

Film Value:
“My Lovely Sam-Soon” garnered huge ratings and won a pile of Korean Drama Awards, and it’s easy to see why. This is a fun, romantic, entertaining, comedic twist on your standard Cinderella fairy tale. The 16 hours just flew by as I watched this strong-minded heroine try to capture her tarnished prince. The performances are strong and it is an all-around top-notch production. I highly recommend this drama.

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