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Full House - Movie Poster
Original Title:
Poolha wooseu

South Korea 2004

Number of Episodes: 16
Running Time: 60 min.

Romance, Comedy, Drama

Pyo Min-soo

Song Hye-kyo
Kim Seong-su
Han Eun-jeong
Han Do
Lee Yeong-eun
Jin Im Hye
Kim Ji-yeong
Sunwoo Eun-Sook
Yong Jang

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Full House

Story: Han Ji-eun (Song Hye-kyo) is an unsuccessful writer, living a single-life in a house that was built by her father, who gave it the name "Full House". One day she gets a visit by her friends Jin Hee (Lee Yeong-eun) and Dong-wook (Han Do) who sent her on a trip to Shanghai. However, Ji-eun has to find out that she has been conned by her friends, and so she is stuck in a foreign city she doesn't even know and without any money left. Fortunately, she met movie star Lee Yeong-jae (Rain) on the flight to China. Actually, he can't stand her because of her messy character, but when Ji-eun presents him with a made up story that she is the former girlfriend of his friend Min-hyuk (Kim Seong-su), who she in fact met in Shanghai only by accident, Lee agrees to lend her the money for a ticket back home.
Back at her home Ji-eun is confronted with another crisis. Her house has been sold by her friends and she has no money left in her bank account. As fate has its lucky hand in the game she has to find out that Lee Yeong-jae is the new owner of the "Full House". Lee is in love with his fashion designer Kang Hye-won (Han Eun-jeong), but Kang only has eyes for Min-hyuk. Out of envy and a bad mood he kisses Han Ji-eun on a party to make Hye-won jealous. From that day on he is in the spotlight of the media and eventually marries Ji-eun. What the media doesn't know is that the two have agreed on a marriage contract. Ji-eun works at Yeong-jae's home as a housemaid in order to buy back her house. Furthermore, the marriage is on a 6-months basis only.
Ji-eun and Yeong-jae are everything but a perfect couple and the two always get into serious arguments. Their relationship gets even more complicated when Min-hyuk suddenly starts to have interest in Ji-eun and Yeong-jae has to admit to himself that despite his love for Hye-won he somehow gets very envious about it...

Review: Who would have thought that a soap opera could be so much fun. It's not without a reason that these shows are called TV-dramas in Korea to detach themselves from the somewhat negative genre term of a soap. "Full House" was my personal introduction to the genre (not counting in "Train Man") and even impressed me so much that I will be looking out for similar TV shows in the future. The reason for this is simple: Korean dramas are refreshingly different from what we might be used to see. We don't get any cheaply produced TV stuff with ridiculous acting, but enchanting and at times hilariously funny entertainment.

At first I was rather sceptical about the series, but since not even the pictures look like your standard TV treat, but instead can even provide with some nice camera work at times, that don't need to hide from the quality of certain cinematic movies, it became easy to get access to the series.
Granted, the story isn't really anything new in its core. We have a few unfortunate love constellations, that serve as the groundwork for some slightly dramatic moments, but they never cross the line of what's still bearable. Interestingly enough, however, we are never quite sure if Ji-eun and Yeong-jae will actually become a couple in the end, as Yeong-jae's love for Kang is strong enough for us to be unsure until the last third of the series, if he maybe doesn't hold more feelings for Kang and will become happy with her, while Ji-eun might end up with Min-hyuk. Yet, that would absolutely be against the rules of such a TV-Drama, and is thus merely a tool to increase the tension and drama level. At least, the main plot is quite interesting. Can true love blossom out of a more or less forced contract wedding?

Which brings us to the actual strong point of the series: The humor and two great protagonists. Popstar Rain ("I'm a Cyborg, but that's ok") plays Yeong-jae, an arrogant film star, who is a quiet and somehow unlikable fellow, until he runs into Ji-eun. After that he starts to come out of his shell, becomes more humane, yells at his "wife" and drives her crazy with his obsession of cleaning. Just by watching at his face you can actually tell, that he has a lot of fun being in control and commanding his wife. However, Ji-eun is not someone to mess with either. She knows how to defend herself and so there are numerous disputes between the two, the way you normally only see them from a real couple.
Yeong-jae repeatedly keeps his wife waiting on their "dates", as he is with Kang Hye-won most of the time or at least with her in his thoughts. When he gets confronted with it by Ji-eun, he only knows to defend himself by shouting at her, ordering her to make dinner or to clean the house. When he isn't calling her a "bird brain" or his "rice bowl", then she is a "vacuum cleaner" for him. Of course, the viewer knows long before the two protagonists do, that the idiom "tease the ones you love" is to be found in these scenes at its finest.

Still, Yeong-jae also makes Ji-eun pack her things and disappear every time she has enough of his mood, even though she returns home only a little bit later. For Ji-eun there is no doubt that Yeong-jae is the "King of Jerks", but only because he seems incapable of showing his true feelings and emotions. Every time there is an apology about to come out of his mouth, he instantly feels too soft and instead starts to throw some insults at his wife. That's hilariously funny and there is only little drama to be found in those scenes.
Furthermore, there are also a few magical scenes, for instance when Yeong-jae teaches his "stupid" wife how to ride a bike or saves her from drowning, which also leaves no doubt about what kind of relationship there actually is between the two, even though they still haven't figured it out themselves, yet. Nonetheless, the viewer is also quite aware, that there is still a lot of work for the two to be done in order to get along with each other and head for a happy ending. Still, until then there is lots of situation comic and two great main actors to drool about.

Thus, Rain and Song Hye-kyo are the actual reason why this TV-series is so entertaining. Rain really has talent as an actor and manages to portray a somewhat complex character of the mean husband, who somewhere deep inside actually has a heart, that he just can't show to anybody. With time Ji-eun changes him into a new person, but until then Yeong-jae has his fun with Ji-eun by letting her do the household chores. His odd cleaning obsession also leads to the fact that we eventually get to know every single spot and corner of the house the series takes place in. It's easy to feel at home here, after a few episodes.
The true star of the show, however, is Song Hye-kyo. She radiates an incredible amount of charm, that will make every man's heart melt. Song is everything but ugly, as a matter of fact she is gorgeous, but if you are only putting value on the looks then actress Han Eun-jeong, who is playing Kang Hye-won, is more what you would call a typical Korean beauty. Still, it doesn't take long until Song exceeds her rival in any respect, which leads to the interesting fact that from a subjective perspective she looks far more beautiful than Han at the end. This proves once more that real beauty also comes from within. Song Hye-kyo has a great way of laughing and her bad jokes, as well as her gestures will win you over for sure. Ji-eun has a character that is fun to watch and that alone is reason enough to stay tuned until the end of the show.

Of course, it also gets more dramatic every now and then, especially when the love constellations shift. We can't stand Hye-won until a few episodes before the finale, which is because she is the reason for many tearjerking moments. Kang manages to convey these scenes pretty well, though, and convinces with a neat performance without any overacting, like it is the case with the rest of the supporting cast, too. This overacting is something I consider incredibly cheesy and which prevented me to watch such series before. Luckily, there really isn't anything of it to be found here.
Kim Seong-su, who's playing Min-hyuk, oftentimes seems too cold, although it is difficult to pinpoint, if it's really his fault or if it's part of his role. At least he brings more tension into play when he tries to win over Ji-eun. Because of this Yeong-jae becomes aware that he actually cares about his "wife".
The cast is complemented by a bunch of convincing supporting actors, ranging from Ji-euns friends to Yeong-jae's family. Especially when you consider that this is "only" a drama series, you have to admit that they give a very impressive performance.

There are also some weak points to criticize, naturally. Often, things get a bit repetitive. Ji-eun leaves Yeong-jae, returns after a short while, only to pack her things once again etc. Furthermore, during the middle of the show the script writers don't seem to know where they are heading. Towards the end, however, there is lots of emotions, maybe a bit too much, but it wasn't to be expected otherwise. Moreover, the soundtrack, which is actually quite good, becomes a bit annoying after the umpteenth repetition.
Nevertheless, these flaws are no big deal in the end, as there are lots of nice little moments between Yeong-jae and Ji-eun and a great sense of humor. The two actors deliver a great performance and imbue their characters with the necessary kinkiness, that makes them so likeable. It's fun to watch the two picking on each other, and taking everything into account the drama-typical moments are balanced quite well with the more lighthearted style of the show. "Full House" fully builds on its two main actors and that's a good thing. They are what's making this series, along with a neat directing, a drama show that a male audience can take a look at, too. Refreshing, likeable, and entertaing are the words that describe this TV show best. This one definitely deserves a thumbs up!

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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