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Review Cunning Single Lady: a Korean Rom-Com.

Truthfully, I am not a fan of rom-com especially in form of series just because I do not want to be drown with too much emotions. I feel like my life has been full of drama so consuming another drama would rub more salt to my wounds (lebay :P). So yes, I am extremely picky in choosing what series to watch. If it’s not going to make me either happy, motivated, or gaining new perspective, it’s not worth my time. I’ll just skip it.

Long story short, I was stumbled upon this recommended list of series about break up – make up / divorcee based theme and found this drama: “Cunning Single Lady” on top of their recommendation. Awalnya agak males, I thought this would just be another cheesy drama that will make you cries eventually. But I found this genre quite interesting. Divorce is all about heartbreak but why comedy?

Well, why not?!

(Please mind a little spoiler here).

poster short

Cunning Single Lady (2014).

Title: Cunning Single Lady/Sly and Single Again/Devious Divorcee (앙큼한 돌싱녀 / Angkeumhan Dolsingnyeo. Director: Ko Dong-sun, Jung Dae-hun. Writer: Lee Ha-na, Choi Su-yong. Starring: Lee Min-jung, Joo Sang-wook, Kim Gyu-ri, Seo Kang-joon Date: 2014. Episode: 16 Eps. Distributor: MBC

Synopsis

Cunning Single Lady berkisah tentang hubungan antara Na Ae-ra (Lee Min-jung), anak perempuan dari pemilik kedai rice soup di Seoul yang menikah dengan Cha Jung-woo (Joo Sang-wook), seorang mahasiswa Engineering School yang rajin makan di kedai ibunya. Keduanya memutuskan untuk hidup bersama setelah Jung-woo lolos seleksi bekerja menjadi civil servant dan saat itu Na Ae-ra merasa impian hidupnya tercapai dengan menjadi seorang full-time housewife.

They live happily together, sampai pada hari ke-100 pernikahan mereka, Jung-woo memberi tau istrinya bahwa ia baru saja resign dari kantornya karena ingin mendirikan sebuah start-up. Na Ae-ra yang anti dengan bisnis gegara bapaknya selalu gagal, merasa terpukul dan akhirnya ia harus banting tulang untuk mengcover household fares keluarga. Sayangnya, bisnis Jung-woo belum juga membuahkan hasil setelah 4 tahun berusaha. Ae-ra yang telah bekerja pontang-panting pun menyerah dengan beban finansial keluarga yang semakin bertambah. Di puncak desperado itulah ia akhirnya memutuskan untuk bercerai dengan Jung-woo.

Tiga tahun berpisah, ceritanya takdir mempertemukan mereka kembali. Na Ae-ra yang minim background pendidikan masih struggle dengan pekerjaannya sedangkan Jung-woo telah menjadi seorang chaebol, CEO of a multi-billion dollar IT Company dengan DonTalk, a Whatsapp-like communication platform yang punya 10 juta users aktif di Korea. Merasa dikhianati, Na Ae-ra yang meng-claim bahwa ide bisnis free text messaging service berasal dari dirinya, akhirnya mendatangi Jung-woo untuk misi balas dendam. Di sisi lain, Jung-woo melihat Ae-ra sebagai perempuan materialistis yang hanya mencintai dirinya for the sake of his wealth. Merasa terkhianati janji pernikahannya untuk setia dalam susah dan senang, Jung-woo bertekad untuk ‘showing off that I can succeed without you’ dengan harapan Ae-ra akan menyesal karena telah menceraikan dirinya.

Plot & Characterization

Awalnya saya berpikir kalau rom-com ini bakalan banyak menceritakan perjalanan cinta Ae-ra dan Jung-woo sampe bisa cerai kayak gimana. I was totally surprised it was wrapped up in just 1 episode! Jadi dari awal series udah ketauan konflik utamanya apa dan what happen after the big incidence. Kita udah dikasih tau siapa subjek dalam konflik dan kepentingan masing-masing apa. I was surprised since ini kan romance story, I thought I will be drown into sadness saat mereka pisah after being given numerous lovey-dovey scene. Ternyata enggak.

I was totally blown away on how straight to the point the story was, dan kita gak digantungin buat nunggu konflik utamanya apa. Kita bisa melihat bagaimana Ae-ra dan Jung-woo yang hostile on each other and how they struggle to live their life after the divorce.

Alurnya apik dan easily followed, meskipun beberapa kali kita disajikan alur flashback ke masa lalu karakter utama dan pendukung. Semua loop cerita dibuka satu per satu sesuai timingnya. Kita akan semakin melihat sebab di balik perceraian mereka dan dilemma apa yang terjadi antar keduanya hingga konflik yang terjadi ketika mereka bertemu kembali dalam situasi yang tak terduga.

Hal lain yang saya suka itu karakterisasinya. Biasanya kalau nonton drama, I tend to take sides in certain character. Dari awal udah nentuin mau dukung tokoh yang mana (buibuk banget yha haha). Cuma makin kesini, saya melihat perspektif yang berbeda dari Ae-ra dan Jung-woo, which makes their character much more interesting and complex than I thought.

Ae Ra

Na Ae-ra out of her desperation.

Sebagai perempuan, Ae-ra menginginkan kehidupan yang stabil dan bahagia sebagaimana mimpi perempuan-perempuan lainnya di dunia. I found her to be problematic in the beginning of the story, especially that she’s going after Jung-woo after all this time when he’s on the top of the mountain. Meanwhile, Jung-woo is the new chaebol in town yang berjuang dari nol and dumped by his wife in his toughest moment. Saat bertemu Ae-Ra, Jung-woo menunjukkan sikap yang luar biasa dingin (as if they’ve never met before). This ex-couple drew resentment toward each other and I found this very pitiful.

Hal yang menarik adalah, “Cunning Single Lady” is not a story of ‘a cunning-single-lady’ y’all. Semakin mengikuti jalan ceritanya, saya melihat Ae-ra sebagai perempuan yang strong, after all that she’s been through with Jung-woo. I can see how much effort and sacrifice she has made to maintain her family well-being, and how she grows as an individual; from a newly-blind-lover, a dedicated wife, and a woman who has to endure pain and heart-break during her toughest period.

Di sisi lain, I can see Jung-woo, a man who dreams to be The Next IT Leader of Korea as a promising and charismatic leader yet he suffers a big hit of desperation and loneliness that he questioned whether his success is essential. I saw that on top of their sentiment toward each other, they hold a deep scar upon their relationship.

ae ra & jung woo before reconcile

Ae-ra & Jung-woo before fate turns their life upside-down.

Jujur, salah satu alasan yang membuat saya enggan nonton drakor itu karena ceritanya yang kadang terlalu lebay atau kisah cinta yang terlalu maksa. I am glad that I didn’t find any of these reasons in ‘Cunning Single Lady’. You will see the reason behind their divorce is totally make sense and that can happen to anyone of us, begitupun dengan dinamika hubungan mereka ketika mereka bertemu kembali.

Ini yang membuat ‘Cunning Single Lady’ worth to watch meskipun ga banyak plot twistnya dibandingkan drakor lainnya. Selain fokus cerita yang real, OTP memiliki karakter yang dalam dan sangat baik dalam membawa berbagai karakter tersebut dalam 1 peran yang legit.

I also love on how this rom-com creates its emotional balance in each episode. Ada kalanya kita akan disajikan scene yang bikin gemes gegara liat betapa egoisnya Ae-ra/ Jung-woo, ada kalanya scene yang cukup emosional (dan saya rasa masih manusiawi), tapi ada kalanya kita dibikin ngakak gegara perilaku kocak mereka meskipun tema perceraian ini kesannya berat (good job, CSL team!). Tiap episode terasa ringan dan enjoyable, but deep inside it still offers us a big silver lining on to the story 🙂

Actors Performance

I am totally impressed by Lee Min-jung and Joo Sang-wook! 😀 They are both outstanding and incredible OTP as leading actors. They are adorable yet amusing at the same time. (Seriously, abis nonton CSL saya langsung googling loh mereka main drama apa aja, and yesss drama mereka on my next watch list huahahaha~~).

Jung Woo

This guy loves to overhearing people’s convo 😀

JSW totally steals the show throughout the entire episode. We can see him grow from a goofy unattractive Jung-woo to a self-made billionaire with leadership charisma that every girl on the company has her crush upon. Yet he still remains a man whose feeling are weak and very dependable when it comes to Ae-ra.

Performance JSW ini natural dan ngena banget, perpindahan karakternya gak kerasa maksa kayak drakor yang pemeran utama cowoknya hostile, tiba-tiba jadi baik dan perhatian saat tau ceweknya suka sama dia. I was impressed on how JSW can differentiate his positioning on a scene where he is a geeky developer (gemes parah haha~), a devoted husband, a cold-charismatic leader, and when he has to pull it all together.

Setelah nonton CSL, saya baru tau ternyata this is the first time JSW act in a rom-com! This is very impressive, I should say, since he has to deal with many amusing scene which makes him looks more adorable in audience eyes (kalau ada yang udah pernah nonton JSW di “Good Doctor“, bakalan kaget liat JSW yang bisa begini). Meskipun ada scene-scene dimana dia harus bertingkah konyol, sama sekali gak ngerusak image dan kharisma dia as the CEO of Dontalk. I also love on how the way he present himself when he rekindle his relationship with Ae-ra. We can see that he is afterall, still a geeky-righteous Jung-woo who only has one love in his life.

ae ra temper

Her temper is aigoooo~!

Lee Min-jung in none of the least exceptional. She managed to deliver her emotion flawlessly. She totally gave her all to show us how broken she is. Di awal episode, I can see her cunning side that win her mind, and how she’s eagerly set up a revenge scheme on Jung-woo. Semakin kesini, LMJ memperlihatkan kemahirannya mendeliver scene dengan output yang lebih mendalam, dimana dia mampu menunjukkan sosok Ae-ra yang tegar dan thoughtful di tengah segala cobaan yang menerpanya.

I am totally pleased especially to the part (SPOILER) when Ae-ra stands for her choices to take the chance for Shilla’s job interview despite how bad Jung-woo wanted her to stay. I am glad that the writer of this drama doesn’t bring the story to the part where a woman will fall for a man when he confess (not to mention in a romantic ambience kind of set-up) – instead, Ae-ra being exceptionally rational with her decision to prioritize her needs of life-survival rather than thinking about love at that time.

The way she talks to Jung-woo doesn’t makes us emotional with no sense. Every time she talks about her past, I feel like I wanna hug her right away. I feel like I can see her pain and her sincere desire. Dialog demi dialog terasa nyata, as if Ae-ra is our BFF who shares her thought and story to us. Semua emosi yang diperlihatkan natural dan gak berlebihan, bikin saya ngerti why she can feel that way. Together with JSW, LMJ presented a great chemistry of Ae-ra and Jung-woo, making them an adorable yet unfortunate couple of the story.

Yeo jin

I wish I could see more of her leadership insight.

Buat supporting cast, Gook Yeo-jin (Kim Gyu-ri) dan Gook Seung-hyun (Seo Kang-joon) team-up sebagai kakak beradik dari keluarga broken home yang berada tapi minim kasih sayang. Yeo-jin dicitrakan sebagai female leader yang cerdas, berambisi namun fragile due to her past husband death. Saya sangat menikmati cara Kim Gyu-ri mengesankan seorang wanita elegan yang berusaha tetap bijak di segala situasi, namun terlihat sangat rapuh on managing her expectations to Jung-woo. She could’ve made a great competitor to Ae-ra, only that she didn’t given much lines to express her feeling in a more explicit way. Otherwise, as an audience I can only pity her, rather than giving her credit for her attempt to win over Ae-ra.

seung hyun

Idola remaja jaman jigeum~

On the other side, Seo Kang-joon tampil sebagai tipikal cowok-cowok Korea idola-remaja-jaman-jigeum yang muda, ganteng, kaya, cerdas tapi santai yang berusaha memenangkan hati Ae-ra despite of their 8 years age differences. Menurut saya performancenya cukup nendanglah buat disandingin sama Joo Sang-wook as his hyung, and competitor. I didn’t have any complain to him, bahkan I truly enjoy how he irritates Jung-woo with his natural upbringing. No wonder he received a “Best New Actor” in 7th Korea Drama Awards.

Other supporting acts menurut saya biasa aja tapi cukuplah untuk melengkapi bumbu drakor ini. Overall, great cast and character! I am so happy to see every characters grow and change in such a subtle way.

Soundtrack

What is a Korean Drama without a great OST in it? Ini elemen terpenting yang bikin baper hahaha. Tapi seriously, I LOOOVE all the tracks! Dan the way they “play-pause-stop” the tracks di tiap scene itu that caught us off guard. Like I’ve said before, awalnya ragu banget ini gimana ceritanya drakor ngomongin perceraian tapi dibikin romantic comedy kan…dan menurut saya soundtracknya ngena banget! Pemilihan lagu apa, buat tokoh yang mana, di scene apa, itu pas! As if they made their song for this drama only (eh iya gak sih? :D)

Oiya satu lagi. Lirik lagunya! Itu sesuai banget sama scene-nya. Karena saya nonton pake subtitle Inggris dan saat lagu diputer itu muncul penggalan liriknya, jadinya kerasa banget tiap scene ambience-nya mau dibawa kemana dan makna di balik scene tersebut makin terasa kedalamannya.

What I Will Miss the Most

elevator broken

Lovesickness

There are many part of the scene that I truly keep in mind and heart. Not only because it is very funny or heartwarming, I just can’t resist on how clever the writer spare put each spot to be a scene an audience will always remember. But here are some of them:

  1. Elevator scenes! 😀 Scene-scene ini emang tipikal ‘those you’ll only see in K-Dramaland’ kind of scenes, tapi semuanya bikin gemes. Hahahaha. It’s a rom-com afterall 😉
  2. JSW awkward laugh. Like seriously. It happens. Every. Single. Time.
  3. Ae-ra’s cunning fantasy. I wish they had put more scenes of revenge though…I just love how they hate each other they look very funny.
  4. Ae-ra & Jung-woo’s deep conversation. It’s always heartwarming to listen to their chit-chat. I just love how they manage to deliver each thoughts and feelings flawlessly, like a real couple will do in a real life (heart-melted).

What I Wish I Saw More

Endingnya terlalu cepet! I feel like they should put at least 1-2 more episodes so they have more room to wrap up the Guk family story. Meskipun cerita Guk’s family ini mungkin sekedar gimmick, tapi menurut saya cukup menarik melihat gimana keluarga chaebol struggle mempertahankan keluarga mereka.

Also, Yeo-jin’s resolution. Jujur sepanjang drama saya simpati banget sama dia meskipun not entirely taking sides on her. I thought that she is strong-willed and capable, she deserve to be given more credit to her character. Tapi pas ending cerita, ga seberapa ter-explore. Sayang banget 🙁

Final Appraisal

Overall, if you love K-drama that is well-written, gak lebay, gak terlalu fantasy tapi meaningnya dapet banget dan tetap menghibur, I bet you’ll love Cunning Single Lady! However, if you prefer drama dengan cowok flower-boyish, casting yang lebih girly dan tema yang lebih chic-lit, I don’t think this drama is for you.

Also, if I can give credit where its due, I truly appreciate how Cunning Single Lady potrays woman as an equal counterparts with the male lead. Di drama ini, saya melihat wanita yang strong seperti Ae-ra despite of her lack of education yang willing to sacrifice herself for the sake of her family (and husband’s initiatives). Saya juga melihat Yeo-jin sebagai female leader yang punya positioning despite of her disability, growing under a broken family and having a broken past. Even, Jung-woo sebagai male CEO diberikan line untuk mengapresiasi how Yeo-jin will make as a great leader in the company. Since banyak drakor yang menurut saya fokus di perempuan as an object for male’s love interest, I think I need to give Cunning Single Lady special appreciation for this! 🙂

Finally, will I re-watch this in the future? Definitely for sure!

Rating from me: 8.5/10 ***

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2 Comments

  • Reply NOVIAN

    What is the main story of this drama?

    September 15, 2018 at 2:57 am
    • Reply Cinta Maulida

      A couple who get back to one another after series of heartbreak and divorce 🙂

      September 28, 2018 at 3:16 am

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