Thursday, February 23, 2012

City Hall Review (2009)

Drama Rating: **
Personal Rating: Enjoyable

What do you get when you mix politics with a romantic comedy? A drama known as City Hall.  Shin Mi Rae is a lowly secretary working at the Inju City Mayor's office when her life intersects with that of Jo Guk, an ambitious politician aiming for the presidency of South Korea. However, various circumstances led to him becoming the deputy mayor of Inju City and ultimately aiding Mi Rae in her path to become the Mayor. As they get to know one another more, will politics get in the way of their budding romance or will love prevail?

*Spoiler warning*

The choice of mixing politics and romantic comedy is a particularly daring one for screenwriters as the two topics take to each other like oil and water. While this was certainly a valiant attempt to combine both genres together, they might have been better advised to follow the path of Dae Mul, which focused almost exclusively on the political aspect and left the romantic comedy aspect to other dramas. The drama began with a sometimes meandering script, which never really gave a clear picture regarding Jo Guk's assignments nor delved too deeply into the strained relationship between Joo Hwa and Jung Do. However, it ended up winning me over nearer the end as the oddly placed plot pieces slowly began to come together. I must say I did enjoy the rather amusing 'Sorry, Sorry' performance regardless.

This was a drama that had quite a bit of potential but saw some of that fizzle away early on because I felt the actors' versions of the characters didn't quite line up with what the screenwriters had envisioned early on in the drama. There were certainly good individual performances and signs of good working rapport between some of the actors, but I didn't feel a unifying flow among the entire cast à la Dae Mul or Baker King Kim Tak Goo until more than halfway through the drama. At times, the characters ended up exaggerating their acting a bit so it felt a little contrived and not genuine, particularly ironic for a political drama.  This was the case with Kim Sun Ah's Shin Mi Rae sometimes, which was a shame since I rather liked her portrayal in Kim Sam Soon. Choo Sang Mi's Joo Hwa, Lee Hyung Chul's Jung Do and the three bureau directors were guilty of this to various extents as well. As for Cha Seung Won, his version of Jo Guk strangely reminded me of Abe Hiroshi from dramas like Trick and Hero, not altogether a bad thing. Fortunately, the drama gradually improved as series slowly took on more drive and purpose and the cast began to have a greater sense of rapport amongst themselves.

The music is generally well chosen aside from various points in the drama when there were moments that the music didn't quite fit the scene. One such example of this would be the strange decision to playing a theme more suited for a romantic moment at a point of contention between Jo Guk and Choi Il Hwa's BB. Also, due to the disjointedness of the drama earlier on, it was more difficult to select appropriate music to both match the general feel of the drama while maintaining a unifying flow. This was obviously easier to do later when the story finally took on a more steady, purpose-driven direction and was reflected in the music as well.

With your typical political dramas, I never felt that romantic comedies could really fit in but this was certainly a valiant effort. As this drama came out before the highly rated Dae Mul, I suspect that the screenwriters for Dae Mul paid attention to this drama for some lessons of what not to do in order to polish up their own story. In terms of the acting, there were some pretty solid performances by the cast, but they didn't quite come together early on in the series. Perhaps this might have to do with the oddities of the script and how the character's backgrounds were crafted but it just didn't gel into something that the audience was entirely rooting for the main characters until at least halfway into the drama. Parts of that might have been attributed to the cast and the plotlines but I was quite happy to see the drama start coming together into the second half. So if you feel like giving up on this series early, keep in mind - its not over until the fat lady sings (or in this case, 'until the mayor dances')!  =)

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