I am very fond of lead actor Joon Sung (I Need Romance 3), not so fond of lead actress Han Ye Seul (Will It Snow At Christmas?), but I thought I'd still give this romantic comedy Madame Antoine (2016) a chance (although not until it showed up on Netflix in summer 2017). It was a tolerable show but silly and not brilliant. Honestly I didn't think this couple on screen had much chemistry together; it seemed forced (totally unlike the sublime natural chemistry he had with Kim So Yeon in I Need Romance 3). Also, the plot was on the ridiculous side, so I have to be in the mood for something this "out there". Then trying to add really deep psychological explorations to the silly characters later on was also a wrong move, they should have just kept it light and breezy all the way through the story, like a typical American screwball comedy of the 1930's.Can two psychological oddballs who don't believe in True Love actually fall in love and shatter their own prejudices against love and intimacy?
Why the B grade then? Because of my pleasure at watching Joon Sung act. He can save even silly plots like this one by making it all that much more believable by playing along with them so well. Like a great athlete playing with a group of only adequate athletes and making them perform better simply because of his presence. I have a feeling he has a great sense of humor in "real life". The main reason I couldn't stick with his drama High Society was because he hardly had any screen time, the female lead character and her friend characters got the bulk of the screen time, which I thought a stupid oversight. However, when you give Joon Sung lots of screen time you get lots of irresistible fun. He's a gem.
Ko Hye Rim (Han Ye Seul) is a famous and exotically beautiful fortune-teller who owns a popular cafe. Patrons who come in for food are also getting their fortunes told too. She is known professionally as "Madame Antoine" and insists that she is spiritually connected to the late Marie Antoinette who was once the Queen of France, but it is a professional lie to make herself appear more intriguing to customers. She is often able to see through people's personal histories due to her keen intelligence and heightened senses of awareness and attention to details others miss out on. Although it's a silly childish pipe dream of hers she privately fantasizes about becoming a movie star someday and finding love on a set with another actor while filming. Her own love life in the past has been disappointing so her unrealistic love fantasies suffice and seem preferable to actually working hard at a real relationship.
Ko Hye Rim then reluctantly at first takes part in a psychological test project conducted by famous psychotherapist Choi Soo Hyun (Sung Joon). Choi Soo Hyeon is popular among Korean and Hollywood stars who call him their Soul Doctor. He is very good looking, debonair, and uses his attractiveness to keep customers coming back for his services. In reality he is a cold analyst who deliberately digs through customers' inferiority complexes and personal pain, hiding a sharp knife behind his sweet smile due to a childhood trauma of his own. His real goal is to prove that true love does not exist. Coincidentally, the name for his psychological treatment center is Madame Antoine. So it seems fate has brought these two odd, lost souls together. Both Ko Hye Rim and Choi Soon Hyun end up living in the same building on different floors. Of course. Close Proximity is a tried and true K-drama plot cliche to help keep the two main leads interacting with each other.
The inevitable happens and Kyo Hye Rim begins to fall in love with her psychotherapist, and he, against all odds, falls in love with her too. So much for his goal of proving True Love does not exist!
Probably the most delightful part of the series is this thawing out that happens between them over time which results in more maturity in both their characters. But again, this is a time honored Korean drama formula where a couple who at first don't particularly like each other eventually fall in love. Ahem. Yes, it's cute and all, but I've seen it more times than I can count and at this point in my K-drama watching history I am looking for originality most of all, not more of the same old, same old. If you're new to K-dramas you will probably be much more swept off your feet in regards to this one than an experienced K-drama viewer / fan would be. Then again maybe you don't really care too much about K-drama cliches when you have another chance to drink in delectable Joon Sung with your eyes ... and ears. ;)
I would definitely recommend you watch I Need Romance 3 first to see Joon Sung's best performance and best chemistry with a co-star. Then watch Madame Antoine down the road after watching that one first. Also I think he gave a truly great performance as the villain in Hyde, Jekyll and I (2015) and I would strongly urge you to watch that drama as well. He actually scared me as that character, which really surprised me. This guy can really act but he definitely needs better material now that he's a Star in his own right, and not just another K-drama supporting actor.
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