Bok-joo (played by Lee Sung-kyung) is a college-aged weightlifter. Why, of all people, would anyone hire Lee Sung-kyung for such a role..? Well whatever the questionable reasoning, Lee Sung-kyung does at least mostly look like a weightlifter, even if it's largely done through a butch haircut and clothes that disguise her build. All the same I can't help but find it ironically funny that Lee Sung-kyung as Bok-joo spends most of the episode fighting rythmic gymnasts of all people.
That's the main thrust of "Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-joo" to date- it's about immature college students finding idiotic ways to start fights with each other. While this "plot" generally annoyed me while I was actually watching "Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-joo", in retrospect it's actually surprisingly charming. Think about it. What do people really do in college anyway- act like smart adults or bratty teenagers?
It is a bit of a problem that Bok-joo does not yet have any apparent path to growing up and becoming mature, which is concurrent with the drama itself lacking much of a plot. The big mystery that makes up all the conflict is about who's stealing the women athletes' underwear, and it ends up getting solved by complete accident with no single character doing anything particularly competent to bring the perpetrator to justice. There's just a massive dogpile that is funny, in a sort of slapstick style, yet also mostly just silly.
Swimmer Joon-hyeong (played by Nam Joo-hyuk) is a potentially interesting character, but focused as "Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-joo" is on the rivalry between weightlifters and gymnasts, we only get the most generic background on Joon-hyeong. Even weirder, the cliffhanger manages to exposit the drama's central character relationship pretty much out of nothing. Once again, this is so ridiculous as to be funny. Yet I rather doubt that's the emotion the production team was aiming for.
But overall "Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-joo" is, at its worst, just kind of goofy, and the tone is pretty accurate overall. National aspirations notwithstanding all the central characters in this drama are just kids who simply can't be trusted with basic tasks, let alone a serious amount of self-awareness. It takes a moment to really get used to them, and I'm still not sure what to make of the lack of plot. Even so, there's just enough charm in "Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-joo" that I think it deserves a chance.
Review by William Schwartz
"Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-joo" is directed by Oh Hyeon-jong, written by Kim Soo-jin-III and Yang Hee-seong, and features Lee Sung-kyung, Nam Joo-hyuk, Kyung Soo-jin, Lee Jae-yoon, Lee Joo-young and Cho Hye-jung.
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Staff writer. Has been writing articles for HanCinema since 2012, having lived in South Korea since 2011. Started out in Gyeongju, then to Daegu, then to Ansan, then to Yeongju, then to Seoul, lived on the road for HanCinema's travel diaries series in the summer of 2016, and is currently settled in Anyang. Has good tips for utilizing South Korea's public bus system. William Schwartz can be contacted via email@example.com.
"[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-joo" Episode 1"
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