March 21, 2016

Marriage Contract - I Do

Screenshot of Viki ratings for drama Marriage Contract sowing a 9.7 average out of 286 ratingsI’m continuing to find plenty to like in MBC’s new weekend drama, Marriage Contract. And I’m not alone. As of episode 6, broadcast ratings are holding steady or increasing, and the Viki rating has edged up another tenth of a star to 9.7.

Not only do the tireless volunteer subbers English-caption episodes within hours of receiving them (사랑해요, Mother’s Love team!), but subtitles are also available in 13 other languages as well.

I’ve had some problems with the ads on Viki. They break in to the most intense scenes mid-sentence, repeat the same ad 4 times in a row in one commercial break, or hang and crash the flash plugin so that I have to reload. Talk about killing the mood!

I’m grateful that there are sponsors, and I understand how necessary they are, but regular ads are one thing, and having the whole viewing experience disrupted by broken ads is another. Hopefully Viki will get this straightened out soon.

Meanwhile, I’m seeing no ads on DramaFever, but I have to wait until Monday instead of watching over the weekend. TIP: If the new eps don’t appear to be posted yet on DF on a Monday, check the dropdown episode list in the player.

Marriage Contract is checking all of the mandatory KDrama boxes: Romantic wound-tending, piggyback rides and frequent food porn. Today I’ll give propers to some of the supporting characters, who are often unsung.

Kim Young Pil looks outraged as his father accuses him of failing in his romantic relationshipsInitially, I felt some sympathy for 형 (Kim Young Pil). One day, he’s a rich man’s only son. The next, he’s sharing both of his parents with an illegitimate half-brother who’s brighter, more charming, and looks like Lee Seo Jin. Ouch.

But tough as that might be, and mean as his father is, it’s hard to empathize with a 40 year-old man who throws hissy fits like a toddler at naptime. Are we seeing his ugly side because he’s about to do something nasty?

Ditto for Kim Yoo Ri, everybody’s ex, who belongs on a poster with the caption “beauty is only skin deep.” Perhaps she has been wronged, but she’s so sullen and demanding it’s hard to care. She definitely dodged a bullet when she dumped Jeong Hoon, and I’d like to admire the way she stands up to him, but it seems more bitchy than brave. Honestly, they deserved each other – they both think the world should revolve around them. Which is more likely to wreak vengeance on Ji Hoon and Hye Soo? It’s too close to call.

Pyo Ye Jin is effectively obnoxious as nosy waitress A Ra, who can’t understand why quiet, mousy Hye Soo is getting so much more male attention than she is. Check your personality, girl!

Ahn Ji Hoon plays Jo Seung Joo, a quasi-relation of Hye Soo’s dead husband with a serious crush on Hye Soo. Besides the fact that he is family (technically, if not biologically), can’t he see he’s too young for her in every way? He can’t, of course, hothead that he is.
Uee stands holds Ahn Ji Hoon's wrists to calm him down on the porch while Lee Seo Jin looks on from inside his apartment
I’m wondering what extra work he took on when he decided to help Hye Soo with her debt, after she told him not to. Given his troubled history, was it something illegal which will ruin his new start?

At least he is on Hye Soo’s side, however wrongheadedly. He got her the job at the restaurant, and that was good – wasn’t it? But a clear moral is coming through: Whether out of affection or spite, butting in to situations you don’t fully understand is a bad idea.

I think we saw some sparks flying for poor Kim Kwang Kyu, who puts up with far too much from Ji Hoon. I’ll believe in a Ji Hoon transformation when he starts to treat his friend like a person.
Kim So Jin, dressed up from a blind date, is greeted by an admiring Kim Kwang Kyu in the entryway of the Promise restaurant
But meanwhile, perhaps Ho Joon will find solace with Hye Soo’s BFF, Kim So Jin. After all, they both know the same secret. And since neither of them is very good at secrets, I foresee them comparing notes and joining forces to lend aid to our leading couple in future adversity. Which is a good thing, because a lot of people have bones to pick with them. They need all the help they can get.

Everyone lies in Marriage Contract. We can tell the good people from the bad because they are uncomfortable when they lie – or can we? Ji Hoon was not the only one who was startled by Hye Soo’s freewheeling fabrication of an elite family history, with nary a qualm to be seen. I guess that shouldn’t surprise me, given the magnitude of the secret she is keeping from everyone, but it did.

The boy-shows-girl-how-to-dress scene is a rather annoying staple of KDrama. American movies used to have such scenes, in the bad old days when men had to be superior in everything. There were entire movies about men teaching women how to be better women (My Fair Lady, for instance).

Lee Seo Jin crooks his finger to summon Uee, who is checking price tags of clothes hanging on a rack and looking shockedThe same mindset is evident when Ji Hoon summons Hye Soo with a crooked finger at the clothing store. This seems normal enough to American viewers, despite his arrogant facial expression, but it is actually contemptuous and quite rude in Korea, as it is used only to beckon to animals. He is – literally – treating her like a dog.

These days, you don’t see women being dressed by men in American movies very often, unless it’s their gay designer friend. At least Hye Soo got to kick off those insanely high heels at the earliest opportunity! I’ll admit Hye Soo doesn’t have much fashion sense. But she’s a working mom and an introvert, so her flashlessness is consistent with her personality and lifestyle.

I winced when 시어머니 handed her cosmetics. I know, I know, it was supposed to be a moment of female bonding, with mother-in-law offering the one skill she felt she had. But no ghostifying BB cream, 제발! It’s been so refreshing to see a Korean actress who looks like she sees the light of day once in awhile.

Marriage Contract continues to be a fertile vehicle to show off the many faces of Lee Seo Jin. We have seen the cold, controlling, withholding Ji Hoon, who goads his brother and plays women for entertainment. Now he is awakening to the pleasures of a more innocent form of play, and of being useful to others.
A laughing Lee Seo Jin steadies Shin Rin Ah as she races around the park on a scooter he bought for her
But his new self-conception is immediately challenged as he becomes more conscious of how others see him, and how his behavior impacts them. So much happens non-verbally in the interactions between Hye Soo and Ji Hoon, and yet is perfectly clear. I just love that.

When I consider that we are already more than a third of the way through this drama, melancholia descends. With the surgery apparently on the near horizon, I wondered whether most of the remaining episodes would be devoted to its aftermath. But now it seems less certain that we will ever get to that point. Ji Hoon’s “simple” plan has gotten so complicated that potential plot twists crouch in every corner, ready to pounce.

Is Hye Soo’s secret about to come out? Will Ji Hoon have to choose between the well-being of his fake wife and his alcoholic mother? And what does 아버지 plan to do, besides fanning the flames of sibling rivalry to a fever pitch?

Really, this whole thing is Kim Yong Geon’s fault to begin with – cheating on his wife, dumping his mistress, bringing home his love child. He’s a man who has been able to do whatever he wants for far too long. If he’s headed for remorse, he has a lengthy journey ahead. Could he make it in the remaining 10 episodes?

We shall see.

Related Posts:
Marriage Contract Off to a Strong Start
Lee Seo Jin to Star in Upcoming Drama – Poll

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