No true Shin Sung-Rok fan should skip the new fantasy romance drama Perfume. His acting is divinely entertaining and was the sole reason I didn’t give in to that little voice inside my head whispering, “Nope. This isn’t worth 16 hours.”
“The moment she gave up on her life a miracle happened.” – Perfume
Ever since Min Jae-Hee was a kid she dreamed of becoming a model – wearing expensive clothes and walking on a runway in fashion shows with camera flashes blinking all around her. Because of a pregnancy that dramatically altered something within her hormones, after her daughter was born, she began piling on weight which was virtually impossible to loose. Now, because of her size, her husband is ashamed to admit she’s his wife and no longer finds her attractive, which gave him a lame excuse to commit several affairs. Even her teenage daughter avoids being around her. At her wits end, she devises an elaborate plan to kill herself and her husband but just as she’s swallowing pills, one by one, a delivery man shows up on a rope outside her window. Startled, she forgets about what she was doing, receives the package, and opens it. Inside is a unique looking bottle of perfume and, of course, she decides to put some on right then and there. Instantly she begins to hallucinate, seeing a beautiful outdoor scene. But then gray clouds come rolling in overhead accompanied by a loud clap of thunder and the next thing she knows, a younger, thinner version of herself is starring back at her in the mirror. To give herself time to process what’s happened, she runs away from home and, as fate would have it, meets the world famous fashion designer Seo Yi-Do, becomes his live-in help (cooking and cleaning), and is given another chance at making her dream of being a model come true.
Seo Yi-Do is a 37 year old eccentric global fashion designer who claims to be exceptionally good looking, a genius, and “the alchemist of beauty who shocks the fashion industry.” Although the man is extremely talented and creative, people say his personality is colder than the Arctic Circle. With 57 phobias (like the sound of ticking clocks, balloons, and veins in insect wings) and 35 allergies (such as walnuts, imported beans, and chocolate), Yi-Do is high maintenance, indeed. His parents divorced when he was quite young and his father, who was one of the leading architects in Korea, left to live abroad. The relationship he has with his mother is very strained. He dated his business partner, Han Ji-Na, for three years but they broke up after she cheated on him with a young idol, Yoon Min-Seok. Luckily, Yi-Do and Ji-Na still have a good working relationship. He opened the first E-Do Collection store in 2012 and now there are 65 stores nationwide as well as in London, Paris, Tokyo, Shanghai, and Hong Kong. Initially he likes Min Ye-Rin because she reminds him of his first love from 29 years ago (a girl three years his senior) but the more he’s with her, the more he comes to like her for herself.
Min Jae-Hee/Min Ye-Rin was a positive young woman who became beaten down by the difficulties in her life. Instead of receiving strength from her family, she began to feel like she was a burden to them, like her mere presence was causing them discomfort. When she discovers the perfume takes her back to her younger years, she decides to go by the name Min Ye-Rin and try to recapture the dream she had many years earlier. After living with a husband who emotionally abused her, shamed her, and cheated on her, crushed Ja-Hee/Ye-Rin gains the courage she needs to believe in herself once again thanks to her employer, Seo Yi-Do.
I first became acquainted with Shin Sung-Rok through the psychological thriller Liar Game. Watching him was unsettling. He just gave me the creeps and I felt the same way when I saw him in Return. He was kind of the same, yet slightly different, in The Last Empress. But in Perfume he shows the audience he’s not just the perfect bad guy but capable of being a talented comedic performer as well. You can find some information about him in my Liar Game review.
If you’re interested in knowing a bit about Ko Won-Hee, the gal who plays the part of (the young and thin Min Jae-Hee) Min Ye-Rin, you can go to my review of Strongest Deliveryman.
Forty year old Ha Jae-Sook dropped out of Hanukkah University of Foreign Studies in order to become an actress, beginning her entertainment career in the theater genre in 2000 with the show Don’t Ask Me About the Past. Six years later she moved to TV with the drama Alone in Love and then went on to be on the big screen in the 2010 film The House. I’ve seen Jae-Sook in Pasta, Protect the Boss, Birth of a Beauty, Beautiful Mind, and just recently in My Absolute Boyfriend, always playing a supporting character. I think she is an excellent actress and quite pretty. Someone needs to cast her in a leading role!
I’ve seen a few dramas that have dealt with the issue of being overweight – Oh, My Venus, The Miracle, and Birth of a Beauty come to mind – and now Perfume joins that group. Like the other three, this drama tries to remind us that the old saying “Beauty is only skin deep” is 100% true. However, more than that, I got the feeling Perfume was trying to teach us to not judge others based solely on their looks/weight. In the story, people would stare at Jae-Hee, like she had four heads, simply because she was obese. Their attitudes were almost like they were afraid they could catch “fatness” if they were too close to her. That’s sad, ridiculous, and something completely foreign to this American. Maybe it’s just that way in Korean/Asian cultures. Living in the United States, we’re all pretty much accustomed to seeing excess weight on people so folks don’t do a lot of staring. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “The prevalence of obesity was 39.8% and affected about 93.3 million U.S. adults in 2015-2016.” I’m not saying obesity is perfectly fine. On the contrary, it can cause a host of illnesses and even early death. However, what is wrong is when we see someone overweight as being a monster, someone to shun, an embarrassment. Perfume simply says, a big belly, wide hips, and a double chin is not who someone is. We need to stop judging others based on their size. Like Jae-Hee, my sister developed a hormonal imbalance that caused her to gain a tremendous amount of weight. It wasn’t Twinkies that made her heavy. After trying a bunch of different diets and not succeeding, she literally cried, “All I do is breathe and I gain weight!” Perfume rightly admonishes us to see past a person’s outer shell and, for that alone, I applaud the writer.
Perfume is a romantic comedy, it’s just not the kind of comedy I enjoy. Animated smoke coming out of someone’s nose just isn’t funny to me. Except for Fated to Love You, and one or two other dramas, I like my comedy natural.
Since the drama is about fashion (with an emphasis on the modeling end of the business) I thought you might enjoy knowing Seo Yi-Do’s thoughts on the subject – “It’s unfortunate that fashion is being misused as a medium to show off one’s wealth. Fashion is a form of art with the longest history. It’s a way for one to express their identity. It’s advanced and philosophical work and a metaphor for life. Clothes are more than just clothes. People in the fashion trade must become trendsetters. We have to send messages through clothes.” Remember that little piece of advice the next time you go to slip on some comfortable, baggy sweatpants and your favorite stained t-shirt. On second thought, scratch that. Just wear whatever makes you feel good.
I have to be honest, this isn’t a fantastic show. In fact, I stopped it after the first episode (30 minutes) and turned on The Wind Blows instead. Once I had finished that heartbreaking drama I reminded myself that I hadn’t liked Playful Kiss at first but loved it once it got going and that made me decide to go back to Perfume and give episode two a try. The show became good enough for me to finish the entire thing but never reached greatness. However, Shin Sung-Rok’s performance is excellent.
I have one big complaint – seconds after Jae-Hee applies the perfume for the first time there is a huge burst of thunder and the electricity goes out for a second or two. After that, sometimes it would do that same thing and other times it wouldn’t and, because that reaction isn’t always consistent, it bothered me. When writing a fantasy you can’t have magic be haphazard.
The closer I got to the last episode the more I hoped the writer wouldn’t mess up the ending. I didn’t have an exact idea of how I wanted the story to wrap up but I knew I would be disappointed if the writer chose to end it one certain way. Luckily, the ending was very satisfying.
I highly suggest you go to YouTube and listen to Perfume’s soundtrack. My favorite song is Starlight, performed by Sohyang. That soft ballad is exquisitely peaceful and her voice is beautifully soothing. It’s such an amazing song. Kiss Me has a slick, soft rock sound to it. I dare you you listen to it without swaying or tapping your foot. You’ll love the little guitar solo halfway through. The first song on the soundtrack is To Reach, sung by Solji of EXID, which has a hazy kind of sound to it. You can’t help but snap long with the claps that are the rhythm part of I Keep Laughing, performed by Kenya Takada and Kim Sang-Gyun, the two guys who make up the duo JBJ95. They do a wonderful job singing and rapping that song. B1A4’s Jinyoung croons the ballad You’re Saying You Are Mine. The entire soundtrack is excellent.
This is usually the paragraph that talks about the drama’s scenery and/or backgrounds but I decided to change it up a bit because, without a doubt, Perfume’s visual focal point is the fashion. And it’s not just the women’s clothes that are awesome! I absolutely loved Seo Yi-Do’s wardrobe, especially his casual look. His shirts are eye-catchingly unique!
This show may not be part of my top 25 favorite dramas of 2019 but I’d love to find a chemist that is able to duplicate its fantasy idea – magic age and weight reducing Perfume! I’d purchase a bottle – or 20!
Shin Song-Rok’s acting
Actress Ha Jae-Suk
Nice love story
Writing isn’t all that great
Comedy is too silly for my liking