Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Drama Review: Marriage Not Dating

Another drama has ended, and it's now time for me to give my two cents on it. This time, the drama is (yet another) romantic comedy from the romcom expert of tvN in the form of Marriage Not Dating. If you want cute, you might want need to watch this.

Marriage Not Dating isn't exactly the most original concept out there. There's two strangers unexpectedly meet during a not so good time. One wants revenge on her ex, the other wants solitude from his overbearing family. They come together to form a totally fake relationship. As they go through the turbulence of life, they find themselves falling for the other person even though they don't want to but they secretly do. Just when they've come to terms with their feelings, the second leads whose only purpose is to sabotage our OTP does their job. Everyone sulks and become sad. They can't control their feelings and end up secretly supporting each other, and lo and behold, contract relationship turns into a real (with hopefully legal papers involved) marriage.

While I personally haven't watched a contract relationship drama before (wait, does Sassy Girl Chun-hyang count?), I know this trope is quite widely used. It's cute, you know. Getting involved with a hot guy or gal with few strings attached and hey, maybe you'll fall in love with them. In reality, contract relationships, or marriage, is really scary and sketchy and I won't touch it with a ten meter pole. But this is drama land, and things gotta be cute.

And boy was Marriage Not Dating cute. The winner goes to Han Groo, whom I've recently confessed I may have a girl crush on. It's true. She's great. She's probably the runaway winner of the drama is this was a race. Second would be Yeon Woo-jin who I was quite surprised can pull off the comedy bits almost as well as Han Groo. Granted his character Gong Gi-tae is not as expressive as Han Groo's Joo Jang-mi. But when the situation calls for it, he delivers. Plus these two together create sparks, magic, chemistry, what have you.

Surprisingly, the other two (or three) characters I enjoyed watching was Hoon-dong (Heo Jung-min), Aunt Mi-jung (Park Hee-jin) and grandma (Kim Young-ok). Auntie and grandma are basically a comedy duo, and they seem pitiful next to the other cold figures in their family like Gi-tae, mom (Kim Hae-sook), and dad (Kim Kab-soo). But what they lack in stoicism, they have an abundant of heart. Sure in the beginning auntie was sneaky but hey, she's hilarious. Tell that to mom and dad. As for Hoon-dong, I thought I would hate him since he's a whiny mama's boy, but when the others were tangled in a love-quadrangle, he still managed to bring in the laughs. And he does it very well, if I might add.

While the drama is overall great, it did stumble in the fuzzy territory of third act part one (where most dramas I've watched falter on). You know, when all the feelings bubble up inside and blows up into the climactic conflict. The biggest fault of this horrendous point is mostly second leads Se-ah (Han Sun-hwa) and Yeo-reum (Jung Jin-woon) whose characters can be summed up in one word: assholes. It doesn't help that neither actors are capable of making expressive faces. Like yeah, I see you can smile and tears can roll down your face, but I got nuthin'. You were a disappointment. There I said it. And then there's Hyun-hee (Yoon So-hee) who's character is just full of loose nuts and bolts. I still don't think her marriage to Hoon-dong is justifiable, even when she's clearly more grown up than he is.

Another critical point for dramas is their endings, and while I've been heavily disappointed with many *cough*God's Gift*cough*, this one I do think is good. The last two episodes brought back what made Marriage Not Dating great: the funny and the cute. Post beach, everything got really sucky and horrible, but thankfully it got good again. Plus the ending of a wedding in the rain (not before a huge fight involving multiple wedding guests) was summed up perfectly with what Gi-tae said (I'm paraphrasing), "This wedding turned out to be totally us." All the knots were untied, hearts were mended, and revenge was done where it should be.

This was a lovely drama about love, relationships, friendships, dating, marriage, family. It wasn't wholesome entertainment, but it was realistic. I mean, where else would you find a male lead that had a flabby stomach? Very rare. The superficial aside, Marriage Not Dating really did try to portray the relationships that people don't seem to want to talk about. There's lots of movies on physically abusive relationships, but what about emotionally abusive ones? Or what about the 30-year-old who still clinging to her dreams of living in a peaceful home where breakfast was served lovingly by mom? It's heartbreaking, but it's out there and it's wonderful of Marriage Not Dating for touching on those relationships.

Kidnapping a man for his sperm though, I don't approve of.

Photos from tvN


  1. Totally agree with your recap, especially about Ken and Barbie, the plastic second leads. Honestly, by the fifth time Jin-woon smiled, with that fakey enigmatic baring of teeth, I desperately wanted someone to kick him in the shins because a grimace of pain would have been much preferable. And only a good actress could have made Se-Ah's part as the obsessed sperm-whisperer even slightly believable. Her redemption arc was especially clumsy.
    But the leads made up for it, and then some.

  2. Hello. This is A.K.I.A. Talking…
    Thanks for the great review of Marriage, Not Dating! I enjoyed it a lot.
    I added it to my collection of reviews for the show. The show has now an average score of 85%.
    Here is a link to the page if you would like to give it a look:
    Thanks again for the review.