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A modern, and effective, K-drama take on a familiar story.
Cheongdam-dong Alice is a 2012 K-drama fable about a young girl who gets the chance to marry into a wealthy family. It is a 16 episode run of KTV drama-comedy-romance; mostly drama.
Here's your basic story: Our female protagonist (Alice) dreams about breaking into the fashion industry. She has some talent, but, her lack of connections, money, & pedigree, have been holding her back for years. She finally gets a break in the form of what amounts to an internship at a major design company. On her first day on the job however, she quickly realizes she's nothing more than a low level grunt assigned solely to menial tasks & errands. She also wrecks the company car and breaks up with her longtime loser boyfriend, so, it's an all around disaster for her from the start.
Alice eventually discovers her former high school classmate/friend is now the wife of the owner of the company she's working for. While Alice has been working and studying hard all her life, her friend chose a different path to success (i.e. gold digging her way to the top). Pretty much feeling like crap and resigned to the fact that she's just never going to succeed, Alice makes a fateful decision to have her friend teach her how to essentially con a rich man into marriage. Alice then takes her new found tricks and puts them to use to find a suitable catch. After a few missteps, she finds the perfect target in the form of a young arrogant fashion brand CEO. He's smitten with her, and she subtly & quickly starts to grab hold of him. All is going well for Alice and she's soon about to achieve her goal; then, things start to unravel.
This series gets off to a somewhat uneven start, and seems to have been rushed into production on the fly. It takes a while for it to make up its mind which direction its going, and there are some hurried instances of mistakes, such as the prop team misspelling the male lead's name on his desk plate for the first episode or two. But, I'd much rather have the production team concentrate on getting it right on the back end of the story (and along the way of course), and, they do accomplish that pretty well. The show eventually finds its footing, and soon starts heading in a more streamlined & effective direction.
Being a K-drama centered around the fashion industry, you can expect an abundance of stylishly dressed characters here, but, that's often the case with most any recent KTV show anyway, so don't expect anything more than what you're already used to seeing (i.e. the rich will be impeccably styled as always, and the poor can take a ratty scarf & boots, and mismatched earrings, and end up looking ultra trendy). This show really doesn't put its focus on the "fashion world" that much...there are a few snippets here and there in regards, but, this show could have easily substituted in "hotel world" / "hospital world" / etc..., and it wouldn't have made much difference.
Moon Geun-young stars in the titular Alice role...she's been in many productions over the years, and is already what I consider to be a really good veteran actress (which is quite an accomplishment for a 25 year old). She's often typecast to play varying versions of the cute, put upon girl who's easy to root for, and that's mostly the type of role she fills here to some degree, and she does a very good job as usual. Park Si-hoo stars in the role of the CEO that Alice chases after. His is probably the most pitiable of all the characters in a story that ends up being filled with them, and Si-hoo is impressive enough in his role. There are several secondary characters, each of whom all put in solid to excellent work. Some of the more integral ones include the friend who teaches Alice what she knows, the friend's sister-in-law, the CEO's semi-estranged father, and a designer that plays sort of a match maker type role.
This show is not quite your typical rich boy meets poor girl K-drama romance/melodrama. More than anything else, it's a cautionary tale about losing sight of one's morals & ethics in exchange for wealth & greed. This show is also very effective at making its characters more multi-layered and nuanced than you would normally expect from this genre; nobody is perfectly good and nobody is completely evil. Everyone is partly flawed / partly likable individuals to some degree or another, and it's pretty easy to end up just feeling bad for everyone involved as the story unfolds. This is made even worse by the bitter irony that the two leads would have likely ended up together anyway, without all the damage inflicted on everybody, if only Alice had just held on to her core values a little longer. Perhaps all these people are better off in the long run though, but you'll have to follow along in order to judge for yourself if that is the case.
Well acted, well scripted & directed (after it gets past its rocky start), and very well scored musically. It's an unusual, and often sad, take on a familiar K-drama theme mixed with some age old western fairy tales. It works pretty well overall when all is said and done, and is a show that indeed gets better as it goes along. And, there's a number of effectively melodramatic scenes as the story is brought to a head, some of which, such as the church nuptial set piece, are outstanding.
Bottom Line: This series is pretty solid (regardless of genre). However, this is a melodrama, so, be prepared for same if you're not familiar with this stuff. It is recommended in general, and it is very well recommended for you K-drama fans out there.
8 out of 10 stars!
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