A review on Miss Ripley (Episode 1) – by the wonderful imogene_af
(Thanks so much chinggu for allowing me to post your review here, you have no idea how much it means to me! You know everything LDH means a lot to me..ermm.. us hehehe…^____^)
Ep 1 – Will You Love Her
The drama opens in a rather bright and peachy atmosphere. Jang Miri (Lee Da Hae) plays with a bunch of kids in an orphanage. The sun crawls to her skin, her laughter echoing with an innocent tune. Her hair curtains over and reveals her infectious smile. This was a carefree woman, beaming with warmth, beauty, and happiness.
Slowly, we see Yutaka (Park Yoo Chun) walking in that park, he reminisces of a great love he once had. He talks about her with passion flowing in his deep voice. He longs for this lover he talks about.
And the scenes seamlessly juxtapose between a sad Yutaka and glimpses of Miri running away from the camera.
Later we pan on to another man. He looks over a bleak cityscape, he looks haggard almost worn out. Jang Myung Hoon (Kim Seung Woo) also shares of a past love he once had. Again, we see Miri running in the fields like a child in the first day of summer.
Then roaring dark orange clouds start rolling into the screen (brilliant cinematography, ohmygahd)… and we see Miri watching the clouds go by. But now, her eyes were filled with tears. Her lips sprawled into a sad smile.
Yutaka is seen in a car, almost like watching her, but we are not quite sure…. slowly… Miri faces us… and she smiles… for real, this time.
and you know a triangle is set. There is something very Virgin Suicides in this opening, a melancholic view… a sweet seduction to an incoming disaster.
The next scenes are the introduction to our main character, our Ripley… Jang Miri. She is a popular bar hostess in the seedy parts of Japan. We see a different girl from the one filled with life awhile ago. Now she is an empty shell. Her eyes tired and blank. She wears a blond wig and tacky pink nailpolish. She seems to know her routine… she drowns herself with shots, pukes all over, and takes money from her regular groping customers. She also is always in a constant conflict with her sleazy pimp/mentor (played brilliantly by Kim Jung Tae).
It is very easy to say that Miri is disgusted and tired of her life in the brothel. So when her pimp finally gives her a passport to leave town, she escapes with a vengeance and this is where her story begins.
Miri is a hard character to play and root for. She is not someone you could find relate-able. Some people may feel forced with her tragic narrative. Jang Miri had a hard life, a dead father and a mother who abandoned her. Trying to survive in the brothels… safe to say, it is not your typical heroine kind of struggle.
But what makes Miri for me is not her sob story at all. It is her warring paths within.
It is the fire and fight in her. This is a woman who will fight TOOTH and NAIL against life.
Yet, she also has a very child-like bewildered side to her. She is street smart but she treads on fear all the time. She often is like a lost kid still trying to figure things out (airport scene shows this very well). In one scene where her pimp catches up on her in a train ride, she had this anguish and fear in her eyes, and something ignites in her… and her eyes started to blaze through.
It is these slight switches that make Miri work, and Lee Da Hae does it so with this RAW performance. I will admit, I like Lee Da Hae but after watching much of her works in recent years, I can pretty much predict her acting styles and attacks in certain scenes…
and there is NONE of that in Ripley. She strips away all of her known habits in this and sort of builds up this drag-you-to-hell and-back-persona with Miri.
Lee Da Hae not only immerses herself in this role but completely DROWNS herself both in the sweetness and toxicity of a character like Jang Miri. She makes us believe that she can be a sexpot one minute and then turn into someone relating to a kid in a train, in the next.
She is as effective when she is erratic but just as powerful when she is quiet and nuanced. There is a reason she is getting good reviews in this.
The crucial thing about Jang Miri is she has to make us fall in love with her… forget sympathy… we just have to feel her anger, her moments of happiness, her torment, her fear, her disgust, and her desperation. And she does this to a tee.
She does not just breathe life into Miri, she makes us believe that she is living it. So much so it is easy to build empathy with such a character. And empathy is different from pity. Miri does not want to be pitied and you feel that as an audience, but as I said it is not her sob story that is her draw… it is her dangerous tread into vulnerability and fiery fight that makes the character. It is dangerous as it is seductive. Which makes her a perfect (anti)heroine.
Now Lee Da Hae’s challenge is to keep this pace. If Episode 1 is an indication then we will be in for an epic performance.
Now on, Jang Miri’s escape to Korea… she is brought upon a lot of obstacles. She has no money (notice how she wears the same clothing in each of her interview?), has to work odd jobs, her pimp is still looking for her, and she cannot even get a decent job as a receptionist because of her academic background.
In her new journey, she meets two men who will of course change the course of her life.
First is Yutaka, a half Japanese and half Korean chaebol who only longs for a simple life. Our first scene with him is he sits in a plane and sort of paces himself. He takes a deep breath as he slowly walks out, and wears a ready smile. Yutaka is written as an innately good natured guy. He is ready with his helping hand in any given moment. He is honest enough to return a lost wallet. He does not mind staying in a run down cheap inn despite his real persona.
He reminds me of James McAvoy’s Robbie character in “Atonement” who is written almost saintly. And it is not a writing flaw, it is just shown that he is a plain young man who is innately a GOOD guy. Actors usually would want to play complex romantic bad boys, but I feel this is harder to portray because it is harder to make us feel that sincerity.
I had my doubts about popstar Park Yoochun standing along heavyweights— but he is tailormade for this role. He possesses an earthy screen charisma that one can easily relate to. He is refreshing and there is something genuine about him. If an actor can make you believe he is sincere then he must be doing something right.
Now, Yutaka is instantly smitten with Miri. They had quite a clumsy encounter, but he was drawn to her instantly. Miri has some semblance to his dead mother so he was quickly drawn to this enigma. He is like an innocent little boy with a crush around her. He is a bundle of nervous energy around her. My favorite scene was when he waits for her to smile in the convenience store. When he saw her smile for the first time, he was like a little boy who just saw a shooting star. It made my giddy fangirl heart flutter.
Miri is repellent when it comes to Yutaka’s advances. we must think she is insane, but we must understand where she may be coming from. Miri probably thinks Yutaka is just any horny student who may just want her for her youknowwhat. Miri is used to the fact that men use her for her sex appeal. And any reminder of that disgusts her… as we did see in her rampage later on in this episode.
But I just want to shake her because his contrast, his warmth is perfect for someone like her who has had such a cold and dark life. The nervous tension around each other is very effective. The chemistry is not hot-palpable yet, but it is there… and I am waiting for the development. I just hope there is no faux incest around here… God.No.
Then Miri meets another man, Myung Hoon. Now let me just start that Kim Seung Woo is an amazing actor, I will always give him that. But I can imagine how hard this character may be to play. This character is built like a machine. He has no emotion. He solves problems methodically. He is perfect for a business setting because he sets his MIND into it, his mind… never his heart.
When he catches his wife cheating on him, he could not grasp into any emotion. It was as if he was helpless to even hold on to anger. It is a problem that he cannot solve logically and because of that he froze up.
Which is a total, big, large, immense, damn contrast from Miri who is brimming with emotions… overflowing, even. When she is happy we see beams of it in her eyes, when she is sad her tears flow like a child tugging at our hearts, and when she is mad? We feel her wrath breathing on to the backs of our necks.
I find it the HARDEST to relate to Myung Hoon’s character. I want to frantically scream into my screen with, “COME ON! GET MAD! OR SOMETHING! MYLAWD!”
But his mind was taken, he has to close the deal with a rich resort owner, who happens to be Yutaka’s mother. His mind was preoccupied, and just as he was driving away… he did not notice a woman trying to cross the street.
And now it was that fateful collision that will bring him to our protagonist, Miri. Miri had a tumultuous day, so she lied. And it was her first lie in the drama… there was something sinfully exhilarating about it. Like a sudden surge of excitement that the story is about to begin and this lie will seal her ultimate path later on.
Kang Hye Jung had probably a minute of screentime in this episode, so I did not get to devour her performance but her presence was memorable. She is so far the only cheerful character in all this (I don’t think Yutaka is, he just sort of paces himself to be like that), so it would be interesting to see how she will get into the mix.
Miss Ripley is a solid drama, which is edited at a fast pace, well-shot, directed with the right mix of danger and sentimentality. It is well acted as it is well written for a set up episode. Most of my problem has to do with the saturation of boo-hoo music but anything other than that… this is a strong first episode. I will look forward to this drama. This drama has the feel of its (anti)heroine who will have you take the plunge with her, her character reminiscent of Lux Lisbon from the Virgin Suicides or April Wheeler from the Revolutionary Road with their beautiful disaster pulsating into you.
And yes… I think I can love Miss Ripley.
Review and caps by: imogene _af @ Soompi Miss Ripley thread