Rural (!) Romantic comedy
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.
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.)
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.
• 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.
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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