Review: Dali & Cocky Prince

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Who’d have imagined that Lovely Nurse Park ™ from Doctor Romantic could metamorphose into a shouty, obnoxious, tossbadger? It certainly wasn’t on my bingo card, but Kim Min-jae does a sterling job, carrying off the role of the nouveau riche gamjatang tycoon with an unsuspected elan.

I suspect Kim has been typecast as the mild-mannered romantic lead far too often, so this role must have been a welcome opportunity. It was first offered to Lee Jae-wook, of Do Do Sol Sol La La Sol fame, and I for one am glad that Kim got it, because you couldn’t find a stronger, more colourful, Jin Moo-hak if you’d baked one yourself.

The problem with such a strongly written and well-realised character though is that other characters can pale in comparison, and that’s true here. Female lead Kim Da-li (Park Gyu-young) seems a trifle insipid, and it feels like the writers noticed this and threw in a few ‘quirky’ character traits to try to give the character depth. Sadly, the result feels somewhat contrived – she’s so meek that no amount of high fashion and skipping meals can add colour to that pallid personality. Fortunately, she shows some flashes of spirit, although these are irregular enough to feel tacked on.

There are interesting contradictions in the characters – Jin Moo-hak is loud, mercenary, and quite ignorant, but also kind, smart, and with a passion for opera. And although Da-li comes from a rich family and is well-educated, artistic, and apparently meek, she’s also occasionally outspoken, feisty in defence of her menfolk, and doesn’t buckle in the face of adversity. There’s also some nice reversals of the usual gender tropes in the developing relationship between the two.

Support characters are highly variable: some, like Jin Moo-hak’s family, are two-dimensional, while others, like Joo Won-tak (Hwang Hee) and Yeo Mi-ri (Hwang Bo-ra), have enough depth and colour to be interesting. I particularly like Hwang Bo-ra – she’s demonstrated her ability to handle roles both serious and comic, and here she gives us a secretary who’s savvy, devoted, and slightly sassy, giving a comic sheen to a role that could easily fall into either slapstick or deadpan.

For those looking for more than just entertainment, there’s also a splash of socio-political commentary in the relationships between old money families and the nouveau riche. The series is quite scathing about the rich on both sides – we get the feeling that most rich people would cheerfully eat their young to protect the family name or family wealth.

I must say a word here about the soundtrack – it’s the most weirdly eclectic I’ve heard, going from the sublime, namely the ever-excellent DinDin and a hip hop track sampling opera, to the ridiculous, which saw a love scene accompanied by music reminiscent of the execrable Stand By Your Man from Something In The Rain. There’s the usual ballad fillers, but the inclusion of both the great and the groan-worthy makes me wonder what their music supervisor was thinking.

Overall a pretty good series with a standout performance from Kim Min-jae, possibly let down by the final episode.

Music videos from the OST by the always excellent rapper DinDin and 4th generation vocalist Klang available here.

TV drama – 16 episodes

Alison blogs at Still Just Alison, where she writes about Korean drama, movies, music, and, very occasionally, things that aren’t Korean. But only occasionally.

8 awkward olives out of 10.
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