I enjoyed Cheese In The Trap (2016) overall, but had some major disagreements with how the plot began to develop half-way through the drama, which resulted in my giving the show a B+ instead of an A. In fact, I waited three weeks after the show ended to write this review, so that I could gain some distance and a broader perspective on it before I typed up my conclusions.
I would say right at the outset that this is a show really geared to a younger audience of K-drama viewers, perhaps because it was based on a web toon by Soon Ggi; middle aged and older people are more likely to find faults with it, especially if you are a K-drama viewer veteran always on the lookout for another K-drama masterpiece to gush over. This is far from one. I could easily see how they could have written this show to appeal more to ALL age groups, but obviously the writers of the drama, Kim Nam Hee and Go Sun Hee, didn't have the same perspective that I did!
My biggest problem with the show stemmed from the stupid decision of the production team to limit the screen time of the lead male actor, Park Hae Jin, whom I really love. Even the actor himself went public in the media with his disappointment over how many scenes he shot which ended up on the cutting room floor and he had no idea why! You just don't DO that to the caliber of this particular well-loved actor! The fans were quick to notice it, too, it wasn't just me. The editing began around episode 9 and lasted through to the last episode 16. Unbelievable!
Park Hae Jin and Kim Go Eun
had nice chemistry in the show
The acting in this drama was uniformly excellent, however, especially by the top three leads, actor Park Hae Jin (My Love From Another Star, Doctor Stranger), actress Kim Go Eun in her first K-drama (who wowed me with her film performance in Monster, co-starring Min Ki Lee from the film Spellbound), and Kang Joon (Roommate, Cunning Single Lady).
One of the best things about K-dramas is their
ability to concentrate on friendships first
before romance begins
Very high on the irritability scale was the character played by second female lead Lee Sung Kyung (It's Okay, That's Love) - - her character was so messed up mentally and so selfish that I literally could not separate the actress from the character she was playing. Maybe that points to her good acting too, but I couldn't stand her anyway! She is the type of character who is a complete narcissist and has 0% compassion for anyone else. I literally found myself screaming at the TV whenever she had a scene: "GET HER OFF MY SCREEN!!!" LOL! I could tolerate her scatterbrained character much more in It's Okay, That's Love, especially because they at least tried to reform her in that show, but not here in Cheese In The Trap, in fact they made a point of saying at the end that she was pretty much the same person. Argh!
Actress Sung Kyung Lee -
I wanted to scratch her eyes out!
Much more tolerable, sometimes sympathetic, but still ultimately frustrating, was the character Kang Joon played, the unhappy brother of the Annoying One, above, a young man who didn't finish high school, who didn't even know what a square root was, who quit playing the piano because he imagined his hand more severely injured than it was, who gossiped about the main male lead character constantly, played by Park Hae Jin, claiming he had a dark side to him, instead of looking inward to see his own faults that precluded him from succeeding in life. People continuously playing the victim to gain sympathy from others usually don't fare well in life.
This is probably Kang Joon's best
acting performance so far, it's too
bad his character was so annoying!
The Story: The setting is a college with the majority of the characters focused on in their last two years of university, so most are working really hard to succeed and get good grades. We are introduced to a spunky, attractive, red-haired, hardworking female student named Hong Seol (Kim Go Eun) who perhaps has a heart too soft for her own good. Her parents (played by Ahn Gil Kang and Yoon Bok in) are poor, her younger brother Hong Joon (Kim Hee Chan) is a goof-off. Some of the students take advantage of her because she gets good grades through hard work, asking her for her school notes, not participating well in classroom group activities because they know she will do most of their work for them if they slack off, yet teasing her because she doesn't have a boyfriend at her age.
In fact Seol HAS been physically attracted for awhile to an older student whom she is convinced hates her, tall and attractive senior (sunbae) Yoo Jung (Park Hae Jin) who actually develops a secret crush on her, too, though he tries hard not to show it. By a curious set of circumstances their lives become entangled and it's not long before the sparks between them begin to fly, with Jung ultimately asking her out, and with Seol agreeing to date him, though she is not too keen on others knowing about them. Eventually her best girl friend Jang Bo Ra (Park Min Ji) figures it out and by extension Bo Ra's constantly at her side male friend Kwon Eun Taek (Nam Joo Hyuk). Her two faithful friends are cute to watch too because it's obvious they like each other as well, though are not in any hurry to admit it.
Jung's rich father Yoo Yung Soo (Son Byung Ho from 49 Days) a few years earlier had adopted the surviving teenage children of his best friend who had passed away, Baek In Ho (Kang Joon) and Baek In Ha (Lee Sung Kyung). He seems to think they will make good companions for his only son Jung, even though all of them are almost adults at that time. The Baek children constantly take advantage of the wealth of the Yoo family; the father gives them a fancy apartment to live in, money for school and other costs which they squander, and this adoption inadvertently causes emotional harm to his biological son Jung, which he hides from his father in order not to hurt his feelings. It all makes for a powder keg which will eventually blow up on all of them, as hidden truths are revealed slowly but surely through flashbacks about the real moral character of In Ho and In Ha, and yes, even of Jung.
Seol in the beginning of the relationship is not too sure of Jung's moral character and In Ho, quickly infatuated with Seol himself, is happily willing to add to her doubts by well placed lies about Jung, blaming him for his hand injury which prevented him from becoming a classical pianist. Seol even begins lying to Jung because she is fearful that In Ho's lies are the truth about him, that he has a dark side not to be trusted. (Truthfully, however, ALL of us have a dark side to us, that's why we are all sinners, so I lost patience quickly with In Ho's lies).
The annoying In Ha, wanting Jung for herself (mostly due to financial reasons and not because she genuinely cares about him), also is intent on getting Seol away from Jung, and in one particular scene near the end even puts Seol's life in danger -- that scene really made me see RED!). The fact that she doesn't even go to jail for that rubbed me the wrong way, too.
Eventually Jung's father begins to see the harm he did in spoiling these two siblings so completely, that he actually hurt them by giving them no incentives to strike out on their own. He pulls any continued financial support from them and they both become increasingly desperate.
The best parts of this show were the scenes between Seol and Jung, and why those was cut down in favor of her having increased scenes with the loser In Ho is anybody's guess. Definitely a wrong move of these two writers. It was obvious to me the whole time that Seol had no attraction whatsoever with In Ho, that she didn't like or trust his abusive, manipulating sister In Ha, and that she was growing ever more sympathetic to Jung all the time. A very moving scene occurs when Seol promises never to leave Jung. We needed to see more scenes like that, and fewer scenes of In Ho (and others) trying to lead her astray. Jung also comes to the point where he questions his own motives in dealing with people, and understanding that he has room for improvements too. If only all people were that self-reflective this world would be a better place to live in.
To enjoy the official web toon for free go to THIS LINK. To buy a DVD set on Amazon click HERE.
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