Saturday, August 18, 2012

In Time With You Review (2011)

Drama Rating: ***
Personal Rating: Enjoyable

Cheng You Qing and Li Da Ren have been extremely close, best friends throughout high school and university who are essentially soulmates and yet not romantically linked. As they approach their 30s, they make a bet about who will get married first as they go through various romance and relationship hurdles.

*Spoiler warning*

Although the script is frustratingly slow (some might call it relaxed) throughout, this drama has scenes that are intelligent, witty and smart. The writing is light and casual, often poking fun at common daily annoyances like cell phones, passwords and in-laws, but it also exhibits a philosophical side, tossing out memorable phrases like "Life isn't perfect but it doesn't mean that it's not beautiful". Storylines were sometimes driven by circumstances, for example, the 3-day, 2-night trip early on in the drama was rather delectable, providing plenty of opportunities for the writer to fill in the characters while injecting plenty of humor into the storyline. On the flip side, I have to dock marks for the incredulous writing at times, such as having Li Da Ren remove makeup (even in dreams), or Da Ren having a long chat with (his love rival) Ding Li Wei about You Qing. These types of scenes are really a bit of a stretch and very difficult to believe that they would happen in reality. The ending was a mess as well and despite it trying to go for an all-natural, unscripted feel, it felt very unprofessionally done, cutting back and forth between scenes with no aim or direction.

Ariel's Cheng You Qing is mature and strong-willed, a great lead character showing off the strength and experience of a seasoned actress. Wilson Chen's down to earth Li Da Ren is fairly palatable although his character has one major, exceptionally annoying flaw, his inability to confess to You Qing. Certainly, this is what gives rise to the entire drama but it is a very sore sticking point as it very unnecessarily drags out the entire story for no good reason. The supporting cast is also very strong in this drama, including the hilarious Lin Mei Xiu, the various other Cheng and Li family members and Cheng You Qing's friends and coworkers.

The soundtrack for this series is rather bland, but its solidly romantic approach supports the drama well. At times however, the soundtrack gets a little repetitive and tired by the end especially given how the drama itself gets so frustrating. The overuse of the theme song Hai Shi Wei also weighs on the drama.

Yet another one of those really, really really frustrating dramas....  While the general storyline is decent and there are great scenes throughout the drama, the script IMHO requires further thought. Aside from the exceptionally slow pacing of the drama, the screenwriter got me a little riled up for two main reasons: 1) the overtly feminine touch and 2) the ridiculousness of Li Da Ren's inability to confess. While I certainly don't have anything against feminism, what I do dislike is when it goes beyond reality and conjures up 'perfect' characters like Li Da Ren who will go so far as to 'help' a girl remove her makeup for example. I have no problem with creating 'perfect' characters as long as the drama makes it clear its occurring in a identifiably surreal world (a la Meteor Garden) but in this case, it is made to feel like reality which affects the credibility of the drama. Secondly, to Li Da Ren - man up! There was really no need to unnecessarily drag viewers through this drawn-out teenage angst (although I do realize there would not have been a drama in that case - not that it would have been huge loss).

Frankly, I'm rather amazed I managed to finish this drama that was essentially a 13 episode long dragged out confession. Sadly, I am left rather disappointed by the long, winding route this drama took as it could have done far better, especially by a screenwriter who clearly exhibited promising abilities to deliver a much more credible and satisfying story.

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