I was looking forward to this show Oh My Venus (2015) so much, because So Jisub is my favorite Korean actor; he was the reason I became addicted to K-dramas so stubbornly after I saw my first one in 2006, I'm Sorry, I Love You (2004), where he gave the performance of a lifetime as Mu Hyuk, a petty gangster with only a short time to live, who changes his life around and falls in love for the first time with a nice girl.
His second best drama is Master's Sun (2013) a Hong Sisters' ghostly romantic melodrama / comedy that was a huge hit; Jisub had some big footsteps to follow (his own!) to match the pinnacle of these two prior shows, both now considered classics. I also loved his leading lady Shin Min Ah, whom I had first seen and enjoyed a decade earlier in the fine ensemble film Sad Movie (2005) with an all-star cast, including Su Jeong Im, who played Shin Min Ah's older sister in that film and who had played So Jisub's beloved in I'm Sorry, I Love You. So I thought Oh My Venus would be like Old Home Week, with two stars I had enjoyed previously in other projects finally coming together to do a show (not to mention their prior print ads together were fabulous looking).
What I wasn't counting on was a script that ended up feeling mostly ponderous to me, almost as ponderous as the excess weight the lead female was carrying in the beginning; it also had too many typical K-drama cliches, and was negatively affected (to me) with a rather absurd plot where a personal trainer in great shape falls in love with a woman who was easily 75 pounds overweight. In real life that would most likely never happen, a fit man would want a woman who is fit too, not someone who had let herself go to the extent that she had to wear a body girdle at age 33 and passed out on an airplane trip because she was so uncomfortable in it that it affected her breathing! What a romantic set-up for a Korean drama! I mean, I can see if a woman her age had had several children, but she was single, so she didn't have the excuse of baby pregnancy fat to fall back on. She just got fat due to the stresses of her job as an attorney.
Shin Min Ah in her silicone fat suit
I read an article at the time that the fat suit Shin Min Ah wore in Venus cost $150,000! I thought to myself, how many starving children around the world could benefit from $150,000 in donations in food money to save their lives? Couldn't they have come up with a better, more sympathetic plot than this, for these two high caliber stars?
You can easily see that Master's Sun had the qualities to ensnare a much higher rating performance than Venus. I don't think I was alone in my feelings about this but everyone at the time seemed to rave about this show as being the greatest thing since sliced bread. LOL! Maybe I'm just too old and picky, maybe new fans to K-drama would be more inclined to love this if they hadn't seen these actors' prior performances for comparison, but to me Venus cannot compare to the brilliance of Master's Sun, not one iota. I say this with a heavy heart, because I always want my favorite So Jisub to knock it out of the ballpark each time. He did give a fine performance, and so did Shin Min Ah, with what they were given, but in my opinion this K-drama script didn't do justice to the quality of the actors hired for the project.
John Kim (So Jisub), whose Korean name is Kim Young Ho, is a personal trainer to Hollywood stars as the story opens. Despite his family's corporate wealth back in Korea, he wanted to make it on his own, and he chose physical fitness as his pathway to independence away from their over-bearing influence on his life. He always felt intimidated by his overly controlling father Kim Sung Chul (Choi Il Hwa) and eagle-eyed grandmother Lee Hong Im (Ban Hyo Jung), not to mention the rarely smiling man servant they employed to take care of his daily needs, Min Byung Wook (Choi Jin Ho).
Despite his seemingly fit exterior, however, John Kim is hiding secrets about himself which are only revealed later on in the story. Because of a manipulated behind the scenes "scandal" with an actress in Hollywood, John Kim feels that he should return to Korea for a short time to let the fake story die down. But how can he hide from his over-bearing family, whom he knows one day will want him to take over the family corporation?
On the plane returning to Korea a female traveler named Kang Joo Eun (Shin Min Ah) who is very overweight has a medical emergency where she passes out after the corset - girdle she is wearing restricts her breathing too much as she sits on the plane for long hours at a time. The passenger next to her, a bright and caring young Korean-American man named Kim Ji Woong (Henry), tries to help her, calling out "Ma'am! Ma'am!" (this character calls her this so many times it becomes a joke and I wondered if Henry would always be teased for this for the rest of his career!).
Ji Woong is an aide to John Kim and his cries alert his boss, who has an alternative medicine license, to come running to assist. John Kim releases her girdle and she comes to, mighty embarrassed that this handsome man has gained private access to her fat body! Soon thereafter John Kim, even after the plane lands, becomes inexplicably interested in this woman and starts to stalk her, which made me very uncomfortable. There's just something about this forthright woman that peaks his interest, I guess. She is a lawyer, and in her teenage years she was quite the thin beauty and all the guys wanted to date her. Only one does, Im Woo Sik (Jung Gyu Woon), who becomes her long time boyfriend of fifteen years.
Joo Eun returns on the plane to Korea only to discover that he has been cheating on her with her former best friend Oh Soo Jin (Yoo In Young), also a lawyer who works in her same office; she had been one of those "copycat" friends who was fat when Joo Eun was thin, and she was always jealous of anything that Joo Eun achieved in her life.
After getting dumped by her boyfriend she finds that she has the press pass for John Kim by accident; she tracks him down and holds it up to him in front of his apartment, proceeding to subtly blackmail him ... um, excuse me ... convince him to help her lose the weight, at first just to show off to the new ex that she was attractive again, but later because she truly wants to be fit again for her own self, which was much more admirable.
Joo Eun plays on John Kim's good heart and they start an exercise and diet program for her in earnest. She ends up moving in with Kim and his two employees / friends, Ji Woong ("Ma-am!") and Jang Joon Sung (Sung Hoon from Six Person Room and Faith) to hasten the process of her weight loss. This way they can all keep an eye on her to make sure she won't cheat on her diet and exercise program. One cute moment is when she has lost enough weight that dimples appear on her fat cheeks - Kim puts his finger on one of her new dimples and smiles. She is getting there!
As they work on her physical transformation, both John Kim and Joo Eun discover they feel more for each than what they will admit. There is some spatting and some usual misunderstandings, but as time goes on they grow closer and closer. This is no vulnerable woman, she is a fighter and only certain strong men will like a strong woman. She discovers his biggest secret by accident: John Kim as a child had suffered through a terrible bone cancer which necessitated many surgeries and prevented him from having a normal childhood. It also left him with emotional scars, and at times he suffers imaginary "phantom" pain, which makes him hide himself away in a special therapeutic room in his place.
Suddenly their roles become reversed, she takes the plunge to sacrificially help him heal from his psychological wounds, just as he had sacrificially helped her lose weight and other personal demons she carried around with her. Her new calm exterior impresses even her "enemies" - the two people who had cheated on her, her ex-boyfriend Gyu Woon, and her rival at school and work, In Young.
In one scene I particularly liked the two former friends sit down and rationally discuss the history of their relationship, without shouting or rancor. Some further insight into In Young's feelings as a young girl gives us understanding as to why she made the jealous decisions she did later in her life. Since Joo Eun no longer loves her ex, healing can take place between the two women.
Although his family still try to control and influence him once they realize he's back in Korea, even to the point of trying to make him give up Joo Eun, it inevitably fails. Their love is too great. We have a happy ending, with a slightly surprising twist at the end --- that could make Joo Eun fat again! I'll leave you to figure that one out. ;)
To be sure it had its cute moments, however it was really a personality based show, not story / plot driven, and I know I wasn't chomping at the bit waiting week by week excitedly anticipating the next episodes, like I was with Master's Sun. I would strongly urge you to watch that K-drama first before this one, if you haven't already done so.
I eagerly await So Jisub's next K-dramas and films. Even though he's now approaching forty he's still handsome as the dickens and still an excellent actor. I am his fan for as long as I live.
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