From YA Entertainment comes a Korean drama that I had looked forward to seeing for a long time – the romantic comedy, “Lie to Me.”
Gong Ah-Jung is a smart, confident career woman who is good at her job and happy with her life… most of the time. See, while Ah-Jung is not exactly over the hill, she isn’t getting any younger, and she has reached that age where most of her friends are starting to get married and have kids. Even though she is confident in her work, in her private life she feels some pressure from all of her married friends to get married too. In her circle, marriage is like a status symbol, and Ah-Jung just doesn’t measure up. She tries to ignore the pressure and be happy with her single life, but when she runs into one of her closest “friends” (more like a rival) from school and discovers the girl is living what seems to be a perfect married life with the guy Ah-Jung once had a crush on, Ah-Jung begins to feel desperate.
When questioned by this perfect friend about her love life, Ah-Jung makes a blunder that will snowball into a problem of epic proportion. She blurts out that she is also happily married. To whom? Oh, um, why, to hotel CEO Hyun Gi-Joon, that handsome, eligible guy all the ladies have been after, of course! Oh no. What a lie. Well, if you’re gonna go, go big. Where did all of Ah-Jung’s career-smarts go? When put on the spot, Ah-Jung named the one guy who likes Ah-Jung the least. While Ah-Jung does know the wealthy Gi-Joon, they met under excruciatingly bad circumstances, and he hates her. Now Ah-Jung just needs to find a way to maintain the illusion of being married and keep her friends from discovering the truth. How can she convince Gi-Joon to help?
Meanwhile, Hyun Gi-Joon doesn’t know what to think of this crazy girl who is suddenly claiming to be his wife. Until now, he has been satisfied with his bachelor lifestyle. After all, he has a large business to run. Work keeps him quite busy. He doesn’t have time to deal with this possibly deranged idiot who is causing him so much trouble. However, when a business deal suddenly depends on Gi-Joon being married, his resistance to Ah-Jung weakens. She wants to act like his wife? Fine, they will help each other out. He’ll pose as her husband to her shallow friends, she will act as his wife while he negotiates his important business deal. It’s a win-win situation… right?
Now they both have strong enough reasons to maintain the farce. Can they pull it off in a convincing way? They are strangers who have to act like they are intimate. Ah-Jung is spirited, kind of wacky, and a bit sloppy. Gi-Joon is uptight, regimented, and serious. Fortunately, opposites attract, and Ah-Jung and Gi-Joon soon feel the pull. Naturally, being around each other in such close quarters is bound to change their relationship. But can love spring from a lie? What will happen when their fake marriage ends? It’s a flimsy premise to build 16 hours of romantic comedy hijinks on, but I had hopes that this drama would surprise me.
“Lie to Me” contains all 16 hour-long episodes spread across 6 DVDs. While the “fake-relationship-becomes-real” plot is not exactly original, I checked out this drama because of how much I like the leads. I have enjoyed them in other dramas – Yoon Eun-Hye was great in “Palace,” and Kang Ji-Hwan was fantastic in “Coffee House” – I loved seeing them paired together. Sure enough, they give their characters life and depth. Her Ah-Jung is at times bubbly and independent and at other times vulnerable and insecure. His Gi-Joon is bossy and arrogant, but also awkward. Together they share one of the most sizzling kisses I have seen in a Korean Drama. Unfortunately, this drama frustrated me so much! Even Yoon Eun-Hye and Kang Ji-Hwan’s talent and sparkling chemistry could not save this mess of awkward pacing and weak writing.
The problem is that the writers run out of steam halfway through the series. What starts off as an energetic plot with romantic tension and snappy chemistry, fizzles out as the writers seem at a loss as to where to take the story. It is as if they were making everything up as they went along, and had no clear direction for the action from start to finish. In the first few episodes, several characters are introduced, and conflicts are set up. Then, halfway through, these supporting characters are forgotten, a love triangle is abandoned, another romantic threat is so weak as to not even be worth worrying about, and we’re left with two charismatic lead actors trying to carry the series through their chemistry alone, which only goes so far.
Fake tension is injected into the story through totally unbelievable manufactured emotional conflicts. Just when everyone seems happy, one character will have a sudden doubt, and drag out the weakening romantic tension until it’s hard to care anymore about either character. It all felt so extremely contrived. Everything that was strong about each character- Ah-Jung’s feistiness and Gi-Joon’s surly snobbiness – all but disappears and they start hand-wringing, circling around each other, and finding excuses to stay apart. I had a difficult time sticking with this drama to the end; so much energy had been sapped from it.
What an incredible waste of potential.
“Lie to Me” is presented in 16:9 wide screen. It looks decent. The picture is crisp sharp, the colors natural, and there are no noticeable technical glitches. The subtitles are clear and easy to understand.
As with their other Korean Drama releases, YA Entertainment provides us with a strong, simple Korean stereo audio track with clear, easy-to-understand English subtitles. This is not an action series. There are few to no scenes that require a particularly dynamic range of sound.
This sets includes a brief cast interview with English subtitles. It runs for about 20 minutes. There is also a 30 minute preview of another drama, “City Hunter,” a romantic suspense series loosely based on a Japanese comic by the same name.
One of my favorite things about YA Entertainment drama releases is the sturdy and attractive box the DVDs fit into. They continue to please me with the design of this set, which looks colorful and has a tough box that will protect the discs well. There are two DVD keep cases that fit snugly inside the tough cardboard slipcase.
I really, really, wanted to like this drama. I did enjoy the first half. But then somewhere along the line the writers lost their way, and the plot slid to a stop. Character arcs were left dangling, other characters were under-used and pointless, and the story lost its sense of urgency and excitement. I look forward to seeing both actors in future projects that will serve their talents better.