Let me just start out by saying Coffee Prince is the reason I watch Kdrama’s. If you were to ask me why do you watch these shows? Why have they captured you attention and taken hold part of your life? All I need to do is point to a show like Coffee Prince and feel like this can explain much easier than my words what these shows give to me. The cliché of the rollercoaster is true. You start out at the beginning unsure and rolling up the hill just waiting for the build up to be over. Hoping the ride is going to be as good as you expect it to be. Then at the top of the hill you let go and let the ride take you, for whatever laughs, screams, or cries there may be along the way. As you end the ride and your train heads back to the exit, you are both thrilled but also a little sad. As much as you enjoyed it, it’s over. And these rides are great, you can ride them again and again, but nothing is quite like that first trip around the rails.
That’s as close as I can get to explaining the experience of a really good Kdrama. As I sit here, after just completely finishing Coffee Prince (so excuse me, the aura of this is the best Kdrama ever is still coursing through me) I can tell you I loved it. I can’t wait to take the ride again, and soon, but I’m also a little sad it’s over.
Coffee Prince was well written, exceptionally acted. It’s touching, funny and has a killer soundtrack (which I instantly downloaded from iTunes and am listening to as we speak). The chemistry between the characters was amazing.
I know I mentioned in the introduction that I was worried about the last couple of episodes and while for a little bit there it did lose a little momentum–I should have trusted the writers more. What I expected happened but not in the ways that I thought. I expected the grandmother to become the villain and fight against the couple–which had started to happen when I stopped watching previously, however, she was no JunPyo’s mother. It was correct for the character to react that way. What I saw as cruelty, was a grandmother who loved her grandson and thought that no one would be good enough for him. And Eun Chan being the character she was–of course she brought her around. She had a way of charming everyone around her. The grandmother was shocked she was a woman and simply needed to move past it (and the whole no one was good enough for her grandson thing).
Okay, well that was a tangent.
Now a few more days have passed and rather than do a new show, I did a Coffee Prince Highlight Reel. Let’s see if I can move past rabid fan-girl to partially biased reviewer. I’ve decided to leave the start as I wrote it the other night, as its not inaccurate and kind of demonstrates the euphoria you get when finishing a really good show. That was written at 1 in the morning, while listening to Coffee Is again, and again, and again.
I really want to start off with the acting. We won’t go into how much I love Lee Seun Gyun, as I believe I covered it here. Yoon Eun Hye received a lot of acclaim for Coffee Prince, and she is really good. I totally believed this character and while I hated some of the choices she made (not telling him until it was too late) the actress sold it.
However, who I was most wowed by was Gong Yoo (in this show, yes, even over Lee). A lot of this show depended on his acting ability which he was able to pull off beautifully. There were points that I would just have to rewind and watch without reading the subtitles, just so I could see him act with just his facial expressions. You could feel just how much the character loved/hated/was confounded by Eun Chan and the situations they found themselves in. There was a realness Gong Young brought to the character and the crazy situations. He won the 2007 Excellence in Acting award–but I truly feel he should have gotten more hardware for his work here.
Since watching Kdramas, I have seen three shows where the lead was a female pretending to be a male: You’re Beautiful, Sungkyunkwan Scandal, and CoffeePrince. Each one dealt with it a different way. In You’re Beautiful, the hero (and the B-guy) knows almost immediately the heroine is a woman. In Sungkyunkwan Scandal, the hero doesn’t really find out until later, but it’s not dealt with as much as it is here (he leaves school to head off to the mountains). In Coffee Prince it is an entirely different story. The main plot line is related to the changing feelings of these two characters. The hero is tortured with the idea that the person he is coming to have feelings for is a man. You follow them through the push and pull of him coming to turns with this before he realizes who Eun Chan is a person is more important to him than his gender.
I can’t begin to tell you how many times I have rewatched the scene where he finally gives in, runs to Eun Chan kisses the heck out of her and says:
“Just this once. I’m going to say this just once, so listen carefully. I like you. I don’t care whether you are a man or an alien anymore. It’s too darn hard to get over you, so let’s just go through with this. Let’s go through with this.”
Let me repeat. He does this while not knowing Eun Chan is actually a woman.
This is the point where while in between rewinds you are screaming at her “tell him, tell him!” But she doesn’t. Which is wrong. So wrong. So, so wrong. I understand she is afraid–but there was no better time to tell him. It wasn’t ever going to get better than that. And letting him go from there–still believing she is a man–is cruel. She totally deserves a lot of the storm that is a’comin’ her way.
The writing is exceptionally done in this show. In my research on the craft of writing, you learn about building tension, about turning points. This show clearly moved from point to point–the relationship and tension slowly building. At the very beginning, you are introduced to the characters. You learn Ko Eun Chan is a hardworking tomboy who everyone mistakes for a girl. Choi Han Gyul is a privileged upper class who is flighty and irresponsible. Meet not so cute. Hilarious hyjinks ensue from there. First turning point: His grandmother says he needs to take over management of a rundown coffee shop for three months or she is taking away his car and selling his house. Her main source of income is taken away. It’s a clear distinct turn. Stakes are upped. It was kind of fun for her pretending to be a guy with him, however, now she needs the job he will give her.
Each turning point from there is just as clear. There is a cause and effect to everything. Things really get going at the beach. They’ve decided to be sworn brothers, Han Gyul thinking that this will be enough for him, and Eun Chan willing to do anything to stay near him. But at the beach they are all alone, and they push it further, first by holding hands, then with her resting her head on his leg. Everything is covered–brothers would do this (I’m gonna go with no). Finally, Eun Chan sleeps on the blanket and Han Gyul can no longer resist. In that moment, on the blanket by the beach, he lies next to this person he loves, and snuggles close–trying it out. Once again, kudos to Gong Yoo, the yearning yet hesitancy in this scene just oozes out at you. But he stops himself. And there on the beach while Eun Chan has no idea what’s going on, he decides he just can’t do it anymore. And your heart breaks for him.
The Coffee Princes
The subject matter and the quotes here and later make it look like this is a melodrama. But it’s not. This show is funny. The first two episodes, when he thinks she’s a guy and hires him/her to be his lover in order to scare off the blind dates his family have set him up on are hilarious. The scenes in which the guys are being guys are funny, more so when you realize one of them is not a guy and you think about what they are going to think once it comes out. So funny. Just the crazy strong tomboy Eun Chan is funny. In pretending to be a guy, then pretending to be a girly girl at the art show, and then her finding her footing with her relationship with Han Gyul.
I do have issues with the end. It’s those last three episodes again. Or, the last turning point. It’s almost as if the writers were like, okay, so Eun Chan and Han Gyul are together, Han Sung and Yoo Joo (the b plotline, which is amazing) are together, now what? We still have 3 episodes left! I know, this is a Kdrama. Let’s bring the parents in! Then they do. Then the reason Han Gyul was going back to NY was he was a freelance toy designer for a Leggo-type company. Actually he was just promoted to head designer. Seriously? At the beginning of the show, you mentioned numerous times he’d never had a job before–as a matter of fact he’d been spending a lot of his time in Hollywood around movies. Then partway through the show, he mentioned he was paid to play with toys, I took it to be a tester, but I guess if you stretch it he could have meant designer. It’s fine for him to have to make the choice, it mirrors her choice to go to Italy later, but it’s the random changes that got to me.
Then Eun Chan decides even more important to her than Han Gyul is being able to make it on her own financially first. Okkaaay. I’m all for girl power. That’s not what I’m saying. This, her reasoning for not marrying him, came out of left field. This was on the shoulders of the writers. The reasoning is totally understandable–noble even. IF THEY’D BROUGHT IT UP SOONER. She’d talked about being the breadwinner before. She talked about her dad’s death. She never, not once mentioned how much she didn’t want to be like her mother. Grrr…
Luckily, everything smoothed out once it was decided she would go to Italy. Then the show found its footing again and remembered how to be awesome. I loved, loved, loved the last episode. The wrap ups of the characters, the two years later when she comes back from Italy, just seeing how much he loves her, how much he will do to make sure not only that she’s happy, but that her dreams come true. I also love to see the transformation Italy and time had on Eun Chan. The last few scenes with her dresses as a girl but still being Eun Chan, just make me happy. The very last scene with them in the coffee shop, just enjoying being together makes me cry.
I love this couple. I think if I redo the top five couples I did this week, I’m going to have to put them in there. At the beginning you love them as friends. They have so much fun together. Then as their relationship builds despite all their efforts, they just break your heart. When all hell breaks loose and he finds out she’s a woman you can see both sides. She has never been seen as a woman. There was no reason for her to believe he would love her as a woman. He feels betrayed by everyone around him–since he is literally the last to know, yes he has. With his dealings with his changing family through the show, he believes she didn’t tell him because she didn’t believe in him. Didn’t trust in him enough to tell her. Everything is summed up in this one scene:
“At first I never thought you’d like someone like me. You seemed to like Yee Joo. She was so gorgeous, and I knew I was no match for her. I thought it’ll be better if I was a guy. When I asked you what if I was a girl, you told me you didn’t’ want to date anymore. You told me there you’re going to marry someone from a good family your grandma and mom will like. I’m not feminine or pretty. But if I’m your sworn brother, I can be with you, and goof off with you. You were nice to me and I liked that. That’s why I couldn’t tell you.”
“I hate you and my father. Why am I always being backstabbed by the people I love most? I thought over and over why my father didn’t tell me about my real mother and why you didn’t tell me. Both you and my father didn’t believe in me. I loved you. but you didn’t believe in me.”
“I didn’t’ believe in me, not you!”
“It was hard for me when I told you I didn’t care if you’re a guy or what my friends, family and what everyone else thinks! Ko Eun Chan. Guess what? I need someone who believes in me. Even though others may call me a loser, I just need that person to say that’s only because Choi Han Gyul didn’t get his chance to shine yet, that he didn’t find what he wants to do yet. He can do it. Not someone who deceives me or worries about whether she will be abandoned.”
See, sometimes the writers got it right.
Nothing like a little love song to wake you up
When they finally get together again. They just take so much joy in just being together, how much they just love the other as a person. You love every minute like it’s a secret hidden reward.
The writers actually did a really good job with all the secondary characters as well. There are a lot of subplots in this show, and they are all handled deftly.
I’m not great at reviews yet, so I know I’m not properly telling you how well done this is, but you’re going to have to trust me on this. Watch it. It’s worth your time.
Oh and buy the soundtrack.