Thursday, November 8, 2012

Drama Review: Vineyard Man (2006)

Grade: B-

Rural (!) Romantic comedy

What it’s about
A city girl who’s strapped for cash moves to her great-uncle’s vineyard in hopes of inheriting the land. Unprepared for the rustic conditions and hard work, she struggles to fit in and come to terms with her growing attraction to the vineyard’s hardworking caretaker.

First impression
As of episode one, this is a fairly standard mid-oughts romantic comedy, vastly improved by its likeable cast. I’m hoping once they head out to the countryside the manic zaniness will be toned down. (And maybe by then I’ll be able to stop wondering why my Chan is wearing so much eye makeup and trying to design clothes.) 

Final verdict
Vineyard Man is one of those shows I liked more than it really deserved. Its direction, acting, and plotting were all clumsy at best, but the strong cast and refreshing story largely saved the day for me.

Unlike so many trendy romantic comedies, Vineyard Man has more to offer than just a cutesy love story and slapstick humor: it’s a show about how a spoiled, selfish girl becomes a woman and learns that the material things she’s always treasured might not be so important after all. Revolving around life on a rural farm, Vineyard Man’s finest moments showcase the relationships its characters have with their beloved vineyard. It also tackles what I suspect is one of South Korea’s greatest dilemmas today—the uncomfortable balance between the traditional ways of doing things and the country’s sudden, citified modernization. (All this, and the screenwriters still managed to make time for an entire episode about constipation. This is a Korean drama, after all.)

I also liked that this show actually allowed its lead couple time to become friends before it forced them into standard love-triangle shenanigans. In contrast, most Kdramas focus on keeping their leads apart rather than building a compelling case for why they should be together. Take, for example, Princess’s Man: the establishment of that drama’s love story happened in the space of two or three episodes—its leads met in a classroom, rode on a horse, went for a walk through town, and then were hardly shown together for the next eighteen episodes. The small scale of Vineyard Man’s story ensures that its characters spend most of their time together and forge a believably human bond.

This drama is an enjoyable, transporting watch, but through no real fault of its own it will always be a cautionary tale about how much impact good directing and writing has on all the things that happen on screen, including the acting. After all, a year after filming wrapped on Vineyard Man, its female lead would star in the endlessly wonderful Coffee Prince—a production that knew how to take an unpolished actress and truly make her shine.

Random thoughts
Episode 2. As I hoped, now that they’re off at the vineyard this show is much more fun. When you’re in a fish-out-of-water scenario, you’re allowed to make the kind of goofy mistakes Kdramas thrive on. I think that’s one of my problems with shows like A Gentleman’s Dignity—its female lead was in her mid-thirties, yet had absolutely no idea how to function in the world. That’s not amusing; it’s just sad.

Episode 2. Surprise! This show’s female lead has the same backup career plan as all the other rom-com girls in recent memory: Matrimony. ::eyeroll::

Episode 2. Way to frame a discussion about love with a pair of women enthusiastically devouring giant, phallic popsicles. I think this moment was even intended to be funny, unlike the Kimchi Family scene that cut from a hot kiss directly to a Naked-Gun-worthy billowing smokestack. (Sometimes you Korean directors are too innocent for your own good.)

Episode 8. This is either the exact right show for me to be watching right now or the exact wrong one. As they’re dealing with bugs at the vineyard, I’m battling a major camel cricket infestation in my house. Everywhere I go, there they are, huge and terrifyingly hoppy. Oh Man Seok, how about you come take care of the problem before I go totally bonkers?

Episode 16. This is the first Yoon Eun Hye kiss I’ve seen that hasn’t been a ten on the richter scale. It was fine, but pretty standard as Kdramas kissing goes—the female lead stood there with her mouth resolutely shut while the male lead seemingly tried to lick maple syrup off her chin. Oh well. I guess they can’t all be winners.

Watch it

You might also like
The Australian series McLeod’s Daughters, for its story about a city girl who learns about life after she joins her half-sister on their family’s ranch


  1. "my Chan". LOl :D I will watch this one before the year's over. I just have no real reason why not to! Especially if, as you say, it has a slightly different setting/storyline. And of course, a whole episode about constipation?? I'm interested! Hah..

    Btw. This cracks me up that you mentioned it, but I love love loved McLeod's Daughters! Though of course, that show not being a Kdrama, and having a run of waaaay too many seasons past its prime, the love sort of waned. But I did enjoy the earlier seasons.

  2. Frankly, I'm more surprised when I find a Kdrama that *doesn't* have a whole episode about constipation ;)

    Vineyard Man actually feels like a Korean drama retelling of McLeod's Daughters. (Minus the whole sister angle. And with grapes instead of cows. But you know what I mean.) I loved that show, too...although even obsessively completist me couldn't make it past season 4 or so. Tess and Nick are still my second favorite TV couple of all time, though, right behind My Chan and Han Gyul.

    1. I'm also a completist but I think I barely got through season 5, and finally decided that 3 more seasons of this crap was just not going to be worth it. I hate casting changes too, especially when they come with such angst or tears. Siiigh.

  3. hi amanda! i follow soomp (of soompi) on twitter, and she just tweeted about you (her new favorite blogger). :))

    i'll have to try Vineyard Man again. Your description of the development of the love story is what sells the drama to me. happy thursday to you!

    1. Holy moly! Thanks for that heads up about the Twitter reference. This blog got about a month's worth of traffic in the past ten hours. ;)

      Vineyard Man isn't perfect, but once you get past the first couple of episodes it improves a lot. I'm always a sucker for Yoon Eun Hye, though, so my opinion might not be valid.

    2. you know, this feels like deja vu. i feel like what i felt like when dramabeans was still javabeans in a free wordpress account, and she used to reply back to almost all commenters. :)) i think you write extremely well and your insights valuable. this blog deserves all the great traffic. (excepting, of course, the haters and immature commenters that unfortunately are increasing on DB. it's sad.)

      i haven't picked VM back up yet, but i'm watching Can We Get Married on DF. i keep noticing how Jung So Min looks so much like Yoon Eun Hye.

    3. One big publicity hit does not make a kdrama blog empire. It is, however, super incredibly cool ;)

      I'm psyched to watch Can We Get Married—I actually really liked Jung So Min in Playful Kiss. And now that you mention it, she does look a lot like Yoon Eun Hye. It's the lips, I think.

  4. I adore this drama even with all of its flaws for everything you just described. The characters seemed like real genuine people and the fact that the leads were actually friends was definitely a plus. I loved all the corny and goofy humor, it might normally be annoying, but YEH just pulls off goofy so well. I think maybe the kiss was because, well, as much as he is likable, Oh Man Suk is just not on the level of hotness as most of the other leads she's been paired with. I hope to see some more of her famous kisses in Missing You!! Lol.

    1. Even though this drama was imperfect, I still think it's proof that Yoon Eun Hye has more to offer than most of her Kdrama peers. Her role in it was a lot more special than that of your standard ingenue, even if it did require some cutesy posturing. She got to grow and change and tell a story about a person that was bigger than their love story. (In retrospect, though, I don't remember how they resolved the vineyard issue. I think I may need to rewatch the last episode...)

  5. I was so surprised by this drama- mostly just watched it because I needed another drama for my Yoon Eun-hye article. I actually really enjoyed it too and have to agree that it was definitely saved by the leads. It's so funny to see YEH in earlier roles though being so...girly. Reminds me of watching her in Goong and then in Coffee Prince, took me a minute to realize it was the same girl.

  6. I watched Vineyard Man because it was one of Yoon Eun Hye's that I had not seen as well. It took a while to get into the story, mainly for her to grow up, but I really liked it by the end. The male lead wasn't the most dashing guy but he showed he was worth the effort. I really enjoyed it over all.

  7. My television introduction to Yoon Eun Hye (KBS in L.A. It was the series that followed 'Which Star Are You From?', in 2006) which quickly lead me to the internet to track down her earlier works. I guess you never truly forget your "first love" and, for some reason, 'Vineyard Man' remains my favorite of her dramas. In it she's kooky, zany, funny, and girly-girl gorgeous! I also enjoyed Oh Man Suk and the vineyard, itself. A nice little dramady with a sweet ending. No crying in my beer over this one. :)


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