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Fantastic Couple - Movie Poster
Original Title:
Hwansangeui Keopeul

South Korea 2006

Number of Episodes: 16
Running Time: 60 min.

Romance, Comedy, Drama

Kim Sang-ho

Han Ye-seul
Oh Ji-ho
Kim Seong-min
Park Han-byeol
Kim Kwang-gyoo
Jeong Soo-yeong
Lee Mi-young
Kim Jeong-wook
Lee Sang-i
Kim Tae-yun
Lee Seok-min
Park Joon-mook

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Fantastic Couple

aka Couple or Trouble; Fantasy Couple

Story: Jo Anna (Han Ye-seul), a rich, spoiled young woman turns the life of her attendants and her spineless husband Billy (Kim Seong-min) into a living hell. One day her car breaks down and she meets mechanic and handyman Jang Chul-soo (Oh Ji-ho), who tries to help her out of her predicament. However, through a series of unlucky misunderstandings, Jo Anna ends up thinking that Jang is a murderer and quickly knocks him unconscious, only to disappear into the night. Back at home, Anna has a huge argument with her husband Billy that ends up with her getting drunk on her yacht and falling overboard. Billy thinks that Anna is dead and her entire fortune goes to him. In the meantime, Anna is lying in a hospital and suffers from amnesia. Chul-soo crosses paths with her again coincidentally. He decides to claim that she is his girlfriend so that she has to follow him home, do all the housework and take care of his three nephews, as he thinks she still has a debt to pay. Na Sang-shil, as Chul-soo has named her, senses that this isn't where she was meant to be. As time goes by she nevertheless gets used to her "old"/new life and the relationship between her and Chul-soo grows ever stronger. But Na Sang-shil's memories are returning one by one...

Review: There are drama series that force even critics like me to fall silent. In general, Korean drama series tend to wield a certain amount of romantic kitsch. Although the new trend is a tendency towards comedy-slash-drama series, kitsch remains an ever-present and substantial part of every one of those series. What makes "Fantastic Couple" distinct is that it is able to break with all of the stereotypes while still being able to integrate the most essential ones. And in a completely inconspicuous way mind you. What makes this series so appealing and entertaining though, is that the story never gets redundant or comes to a stop. Every episode deals with something new and certain problems never take up unnecessary time. Of course there is the standard element of heartache, but it always comes in portions that are easy to digest and is never artificial. Therefore "Fantasy Couple" turns out to be a rather atypical drama that forms its attraction by adding a good dose of humor and truly lovable characters.

The star of the series is Han Ye-seul, former model turned actress for the first time. I was really skeptical of her character in the beginning because she plays a truely spoiled and stuck-up lady who's used to getting everything she wants and still treats her inferiors like so much trash. Of course the whole intention is that she turns into a better person because of her amnesia and her love of Chun-soo, but that is quite an ambitious and demanding challenge, difficult for even the most experienced actors. So how should the amateur Han be able to live up to such a formidable role?
One thing we can be sure of: The arrogant and vain heiress fits Han to a tee, so much, so even that she's downright hateable. Her nasal voice is her biggest help. But Han's real challenge proves to be changing the course over the following episodes and winning the hearts of the audience in a feasible way. And she's able to do this - against all odds!

So Han Ye-seul does not only win over the male audience with her looks but is able to allow an endearing person to emerge from behind Jo Anna's abhorrent facade. Her partner Oh Ji-ho plays a man who will do almost anything for money and keeps a close watch on everything he earns, all the while caring for his three orphaned nephews. He takes in the Jo Anna with amnesia because he hopes to win back the money he lost because of her in the first place. In reality though, the audience senses from the beginning that apart from his hate/love relationship with her, Chul-soo just has too big a heart to leave her out on the street for anybody to pick up. The most important thing is of course that the chemistry between the two leading roles is just right - and it is! The relationship evolves in a natural and honest way, without passing up on the opportunity to demonstrate certain character quirks in several hilarious scenes.

The humorous scenes really run up the score, due in no small part to the line-up of very engaging supporting characters. We have for instance Gong, first Jo Anna and then Billy's right hand, who, on part of his distinctive looks and erratic ways, makes it impossible for anyone to keep a straight face. Besides all this, he has an amusing love story with an older woman. This love doesn't seem to have a future however, because his beloved is actually related to him (they don't share the same blood!) and he often mourns his predicament aloud to the melodramatic soundtrack of "Fantastic Couple". A fantastic move - making the series immune to kitsch by throwing fun at all of its predecessors. Furthermore, we have an interesting person in the form of a mentally retarded girl that waits for it to snow in the summer because that is the only chance she has to make an advance on Chul-soo's best friend. Her unconcern and naivety are quite refreshing and often throw a different light on the emotional problems of love everyone else encounters. She is also responsible for quite a few gags of course. Actress Jeong Soo-yeong really delivers a memorable performance.

Needless to say, the person who tries to drive a wedge between the couple can't be left out in any drama that takes itself seriously. Park Han-byeol takes over the role of this innocent looking girl who unfortunately also has a few nasty traits. She's been friends with Chul-soo for quite a while but actually wishes things to take a more serious turn. And this after she rejected him in order to marry someone else. Fortunately, the series doesn't invest too much time and melodrama in this story. Park never turns into a real threat for the budding couple however, leaving us secure in the fact that Na Sang-shil's returning memory will be the only reason for real drama in the future. But even here, "Fantasy Couple" remains astoundingly lighthearted. The love story is really touching at the appropriate moments, pure drama is doled out sparingly. Instead the drama lives off its well-timed jokes and the character's charm. For those who seemed to recognize the basic plot - yes, this is modeled on the 1987 US film "Overboard".

"Fantastic Couple" has been the only drama series until now where I felt that the story was always on the move. Even Billy's attempts to hide the fact that his wife is sill among the living never end up one-tracked. The character's pangs of conscience are illustrated in a surprisingly humorous fashion and yet the series is able to draw the audience in to becoming emotionally involved. This is mainly due to the uncommon, different and lovable characters and Han Ye-seul's extraordinary rendition of Jo Anna/Na Sang-shil, but also the way in which "Fantastic Couple" pokes fun at several different genres. Actually, the series is so good that I found myself waiting for the supremely melodramatic turnaround every single episode. It never came. Still, I anticipated it to run itself into a corner at the very end. Now, the end may not fulfill all expectations and turns out to be slightly wound up and mediocre, but the anticipated disappointment fails to appear! That's why "Fantasy Couple", this extremely entertaining, endearing and addictive series, can be crowned ruler of all comedic drama series!

(Author: Manfred Selzer; Translated by R.S.)
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