Phoenix


Reviewed by: il_mare

August 31, 2004

Rating: four-point-five

Bool Sae a.k.a. Firebird/Phoenix

MBC Mon/Tues miniseries (2004)- 26 episodes
For MBC homepage for this drama (in Korean), go to: www.imbc.com/broad/tv/drama/firebird

Aired on MBC in Korea: April 5, 2004 - June 29, 2004 on Monday & Tuesday nights at 9:55.

Cast:
Jang Sae-hoon: Lee Suh Jin (Damo/Shoot for the Stars/Her House)
Lee Ji-eun: Lee Eun Joo (Bungee Jumping of Their Own)
Yoon Mi-ran: Jung Hye Young (To Be With You)
Seo Jung-min: Eric (Running After Dream)
Lee Young-eun (Ji-eun's younger sister): Kim Bin Woo (My Lovely Family)
Nam Bok-ja (Ji-eun's friend): Lee Yoo Jin (Beautiful Days)
Jo Hyun-sook (Ji-eun's mom): Lee Kyung Jin (Beautiful Days/Fox & Cotton Candy)
Lee Sang-bum (Ji-eun's dad): Han In Soo (Like Father, Unlike Son/Since We Met)
Yeo-jin (guy who like Bok-ja): Kim Dong Hyun (Beautiful Days)
Kim Ho-jin (Sae-hoon's upperclassman): Kim Byung Se (All In/Mr. Duke)
Mr Yoon (Mi-ran's dad): Shim Yang Hong (Romance)
Seo Moon-soo (Jung-min's dad): Park Geun Hyung (Delicious Proposal/ Secret/Stock Flower/Should My Tears Show)

For more information about the cast, go to:
www.mbcpro.co.kr/CC/synopsis/public_html/english/pg/detail.asp?idx=66
(in English) or
www.imbc.com/broad/tv/drama/firebird/people/index.html (in Korean).

Learn Korean:
bool = fire
sae = bird

Variations of drama name:
Phoenix
Firebird

Staff:
Screenwriter: Lee Yoo Jin
Producer: Oh Kyung Hoon (Love Letter)

For MBC Videos on Demand (VODs) in Korean for this drama, go to: www.imbc.com/broad/tv/drama/firebird/vod/index.html.
You must register with MBC and pay a fee to watch MBC VODs.

For MBC photos from this drama, go to: www.imbc.com/broad/tv/drama/firebird/
photo/index.html.

Synopsis:

Love is about timing. Love needs just the "right time". It's not because you loved him or her less that you parted. Heaven brings you your soulmate when the time is just "right". "Phoenix" shows you this heaven's work.

There was a young couple who fell in love, but who couldn't be together because the time wasn't just right for them. Years pass by and these two meet again. And the trick of fortune switches their situations and environments. A daughter of a millionaire has now become a helper suffering from the grim realities of life. On the other hand, an orphaned self-supporting student is now an accomplished, wealthy businessman. Now these two people are looking at the world with different eyes. The childlike girl has finally learned the harshness of the world and the guy with the once-twisted mind has learned to enjoy the latitude of mind. In the end, these two start to understand each other, thus arriving at the "right time". (From MBC)

(il_mare's add on)
Lee Ji Eun had a whirlwind romance with Jang Sae Hoon and fell head over heels in love with him. She went against her family to marry him. However, their marriage was short-lived with her miscarriage. Furthermore, being the poor student that Sae Hoon was, Ji Eun could not endure the hard living conditions with him, and with family pressure, she caved in and divorced Sae Hoon.

A proud, bitter and abandoned Sae Hoon left for NY on an exchange program, only to return 10 years later a successul self-made man, hired to return to Korea to work for the Seolin Group.

Unfortunately, Ji Eun's life had taken a different turn from Sae Hoon's. The night that Sae Hoon left Korea, she sped to the airport to see him, but was stopped by her father. And in his attempt to stop her on the highway, her father died in a car accident. With Ji Eun's father's death, the family business went under and the rich princess became a poor university drop-out overnight. To support the family and repay the debts her father left behind, Ji Eun had to come out and work. She is blamed for her father's death by her sister, and she has to cope with her unstable mother who suffers from depression.

Sae Hoon sees Ji Eun working at a friend's party, and learns that the situation has changed from what he knew when he left her 10 years ago. He hires her to work as his part-time domestic helper, and Ji Eun is shocked when she meets Sae Hoon again.

Sae Hoon is a successful executive, and he is engaged to a wheel-chair bound Yoon Miran, who was Ji Eun's schoolmate in college. At the same time, Ji Eun is courted by Seo Jung Min, who is the heir-apparent of the Seolin Group.

The first few meetings between Sae Hoon and Ji Eun are not very friendly. Although there are lingering feelings in each other hearts, yet both cannot be honest about how they feel. But as they interact more, Sae Hoon sees that Ji Eun has changed and matured. He realises that he is still strongly attached to Ji Eun, but he can't leave Miran, to whom he feels emotionally responsible. In turn, Ji Eun, burdened with the death of her father, does not accpet Sae Hoon again. Yet she is not able to open her heart completely to Jung Min as well, as she is afraid that she will fail in love again.

Eventually both Miran and Jung Min find out about Sae Hoon and Ji Eun's previous marriage, and both act, with different dire consequences, to hold on to their respective partners.

Review:

Many people find kdrama boring because it is always made up of a mish-mesh of common ingredients e.g. quiet suffering heroine, super rich eligible Prince Charming, family conflicts etc. But the challenge is how you piece all these well-used ingredients together to make a unique experience that differentiates a good drama from a lame one. I would classify Phoenix in the former category. There were a lot of tears and pain, yet without much sappiness.

Phoenix is a love story. The underlying theme was how important timing is to make love work. But I personally found that Phoenix explored much more than that. I felt that this kdrama explored a lot about circumstantial love. What would love be like again for a couple in a different time, in a different environment, in a different situation?

When I finished this kdrama, I was really awed by how realistic the multi-facets of love put across in such an interesting setup were. Love is happiness, love is sadness, love is holding on, love is letting go, love is compromise, love is sacrifice, love is giving, love is taking, love is possessing, love is blind, love is meaningless, love is reality, love is warm and love is lonely. Love is all of the above, and how it is exhibited and/or interpreted depends on the individual, and they are all found in this kdrama!

Lee Ji Eun (JE) started out as a rich, spoilt, carefree and idealistic girl. She fell head over heels for Jang Sae Hoon (SH) and was willing to risk everything to be with him. But when put to the test, i.e. enduring hardship, she failed SH. After her father’s death, JE had to grow up overnight. She realized that love alone is not enough to carry a relationship through and that making a commitment is also about bread and butter as well.

I read of the audience's frustration towards JE’s wavering behavior, but I did not find it to be so. It is consistent with the character. After her father’s death, she is burdened with the thought that she has caused her entire family’s misfortune with her moment of wilfulness by marrying SH. She cannot forgive herself, and puts herself in a love-exile. She is afraid to reach out, as she is not confident of making a commitment and failing with devastating results again. Seo Jung-min is like a breath of fresh air for her pent-up frustrated life. But deep within her, she never forgot SH, yet she can’t forgive herself to be with him again.

SH was the poor student that JE loved. He is a self-made man of strong principles, and that explains why he could not bend for JE to accept her parents' help, why he cannot leave a wheel-chaired bound Miran after the car accident, and why he cannot forgive himself after Miran's suicide. But his strength has also made him lonely, as he can’t accommodate anyone in his world. When he thinks he has achieved all he had lost in his 10 years of struggle, he meets JE and is reminded again of all the old scars and a painful past that he thought he had buried a long time ago. He is also reminded of the love JE shared with him, which is lost now. It was obvious from the very first meeting that SH still has feelings for JE. If he had felt nothing, he would not have behaved so bitterly towards to JE. If you have no love, you will have no pain. Your heart will only react if you still feel for that person. And JE's place in SH's heart is confirmed when he buys the villa on Cheju Island from Miran's father.

It is never easy to understand a situation from the other person’s perspective, and in that way, SH and JE are lucky. They have the chance to switch positions, and to understand and appreciate how each other felt, and learn what went wrong in their relationship the first time round. JE begins to understand SH’s pride as she is now getting the same treatment from JM’s family; and SH begins to appreciate the power of compromise as he pacifies a hurt JE to hold on to her happiness with JM.

SH and JE had so much baggage, and only by breaking the barriers that they have created can they walk the path that joined their hearts together and experience love and life together again. “Life begins again, the day you took my hand” as the last scene showed. Sometimes, time is what is required to fight the demons within, and it is the life experiences that change you and hopefully make you a better person. You never truly know yourself until you have to put up with someone else, and I guess SH and JE learnt it the REALLY HARD way.

A good love story is incomplete without the usual roadblocks and villains. Seo Jung Min (JM) is the strong contender against SH for JE’s heart. JM’s emotions are so intense and overpowering that JE can’t help but be touched and moved by them. JM elbows his way into JE’s heart the way JE bulldozed her way into SH’s life 10 years ago. But he is also emotional and selfish. In the end, he is unable to do the right thing and come clean to JE about his father, and it ultimately lead to his pathetic end.

Of all the characters, I felt the most sorry for JM as he was the one that was put on an emotional roller-coaster. Rather, he was put on the free-fall ride as his emotions were constantly shooting high and free-falling with JE’s indecisiveness. I felt that JM’s love for JE was doomed from the start. The writers had it all set up! He loves her more than she loves him. Sad but true, JM can never replace the untainted and innocent love that SH and JE shared 10 years ago. And the writer made JM walk the same path that the younger JE did, failing his love with his selfishness.

Eric was so charming as the lovelorn Prince, and the writer left a lot of the cheesy lines for him, yet he was able to deliver them with such a natural and touching feel (especially with those bad boy eyes) that will make any woman weak in their knees and begging for his salvation. Credible effort against the outstanding performances of LSJ and LEJ.

The villain - rather, the villainess - comes in the form of Yoon Miran. She is a manipulative, insecure and possessive bitch. She does not possess a strand of kindness in her, but her only virtue is her love for SH. So complete, so hopeless, so destructive. Remember when JE first fell for SH, and Miran is curious how anyone can fall so hard and so deep that she asks JE about her experience. And yet when Miran does fall, she creates a crater with no way out for herself. Miran is a strong woman with a strong resolve. The way she works to get back on her feet shows that it is not going to be easy for her to give SH up, and she is true to her emotions to the end.

I like Jung Hye Young’s performance. The way she gripped her ring when she was jealous, her look of hatred and despair... I really wished the writers gave Miran a second chance to wake up from her madness. My only complain about JHY is the choice of nail polish colors! Did you see those luminous green-colored toes and blue tipped French manicure? Hideous!

LSJ was so convincing as the strong, stable yet somewhat emotionally complex SH. His weakness was only visible to the audience and no one else. The longing looks he cast at JE gripped my heart and choked my throat every time. He was able to display this sense of youthful innocence when playing the student SH with his wide eyes. And he carried off the older and successful SH with his straight face, softer gaze and confident gait.

LEJ transformed from her perky character to the burdened divorceé very well. Her body language was much more exaggerated and flippant as the younger JE. LEJ changed the way she walked in the latter part, and the light sighs she constantly gave out were also little actions added to add age to her character.

There were a lot of dialogue in this kdrama, and many good lines that are thought-provoking and well-written, even for Miran (you can forgive her for her crazy actions). The only "problem" I had with this kdrama was the ending. Everything seemed to fall into place for all the characters. Although JM's kidnapping and Miran's suicide worked well into the story, I wished it was not so. I had hoped for something less extreme... but I guess it would not be a kdrama if it did not have its dramatic moments!

I highly recommend this kdrama for anyone who wants a lesson about “being in the other person’s shoes”, a possibly painful long journey (26 episodes is quite long for me!) but worth every drop of tears.

My favorites:
============

- Happy times during the intial part of their married life
- After JE leaves SH, SH drinks with Hojin. He picks up a public phone and pretends to call JE, and tells her “You were miserable because of me, but I was happy because of you. I guess I was under the wrong impression. I guess I was the only one who was in love. I should never have met you.”
- Everytime SH casts his longing looks at JE after they meet again 10 years later
- SH screaming in the car after witnessing JM stealing a kiss from JE
- SH walking alone at the Cheju beach with JE watching from afar
- Miran lying on her bed telling SH that she hates him, and SH tells her that he hates her too
- JE calls SH out to apologise to him after she was called a trash by JM’s father
- JE asking SH to let go of her in the factory
- SH asking JE in the factory whether she is happy with JM
- JE asking SH to let go of JM when JM tries to reconcile with JE (after he found out that his father caused JE's father's accident)
- SH crying in the car after he saw how badly JE was treated by JM’s stepmother
- JE being nice to SH after she saw Miran’s father slapping him
- Just before SH is taken by the police, SH tells a sobbing JE not to worry about him
- SH released from custody and meets JE
- JE and SH’s meal after visiting Miran’s grave
- JE and SH’s conversation in front of the ferry after the meal
- Looking at the Phoenix painting in the hotel 3 years after Miran’s death
- Last scene at Cheju island
- The OST : I am constantly impressed with the music selection that kdramas use, and how well they apply that to building the roles in the story. And in "Phoenix", specific scores were selected for the different characters, and they were repeatedly played when these characters appeared. My fav in this OST are the one they use for JM, and the one they use everytime SH is sad. Like JM, his theme has this free-spirit feel to it, and the sad theme for SH is as painful as his sad eyes when he looks at JE.
- Miran's jewelry

Can’t stand
===========

- JM’s step mother in her revealing clothes and her saggy figure
- When JM acts childishly, and when he does this "I am cool" walk
- Miran’s manicure & pedicure colors
- JE’s mother

Did not understand
==================

- As the CEO, does SH need to do all those R&D work on his own?
- What were SH's skills? One moment Seolin was into fashion, and then they were into electronics???? Some conglomerate and some CEO.
- How did all those mumbling that JM did get SH in jail?
- What happened to Bok-ja?


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