Brash and beau­ti­ful

There’s plenty of heart in this com­ing-of-age K-drama that’s in­spired by the life of a weightlift­ing Olympic medal­list.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - What To Watch - CH­ESTER CHIN ‘Let’s lift weights ... and talk about boy prob­lems.’

K-DRAMALAND has no short­age of im­pos­si­bly good look­ing peo­ple. It’s all about that porce­lain smooth com­plex­ion, su­per toned bod­ies and mel­liflu­ous voices.

So, when a small screen char­ac­ter comes along with­out con­form­ing to that pre­scribed set of beauty stan­dards, you can ex­pect ta­bles to flip.

Such is the case with the lead char­ac­ter of this charm­ing K-drama.

Su­per­model-turned-ac­tress Lee Sungkyung un­der­goes a me­ta­mor­pho­sis to play Kim Bok-joo, a weightlift­ing ath­lete at a sports academy. The gazelle-like beauty re­port­edly gained 5kg for the role.

As far as phys­i­cal­ity goes, Lee to­tally nails the char­ac­ter. Bok-joo is sloppy in ap­pear­ance and clunky in stride; all the traits of a lead­ing fe­male char­ac­ter are prac­ti­cally non-ex­is­tent in the ae­gyo-cen­tric world of pic­ture per­fect K-drama where cutesy acts take prece­dence.

Could this pos­si­bly ex­plain the show’s lack of pop­u­lar­ity in South Korea?

Well, if the se­ries’ cult-like sta­tus among young view­ers and strong so­cial me­dia pres­ence are any in­di­ca­tions, there is a de­mand for re­al­is­tic and re­lat­able fe­male char­ac­ters in Korean dra­mas.

Di­rected by Oh Hyun-jong (7th Grade Civil Ser­vant) and writ­ten by Yang Hee-se­ung (Oh My Ghost), the story is in­spired by the life of weightlifter Jang Mi-ran who won the gold medal at the 2008 Sum­mer Olympics. In other words, you can bet on the drama to be rooted in plenty of re­al­ism in­stead of that usual K-drama su­per­flu­ous sto­ry­line.

Weightlift­ing Fairy (also known as Weightlift­ing Fairy Kim Bok-joo) takes lib­erty with the whole in­ner beauty premise.

Un­like Ugly Betty – or more aptly, the beloved 2006 South Korean ro­man­tic com­edy 200 Pounds Of Beauty – there is never re­ally any pres­sure for the fe­male lead to at­tain phys­i­cal per­fec­tion.

What view­ers get, in­stead, is Bok-joo chomp­ing down three bowls of rice and fried chicken. It’s a re­fresh­ing sight on the small screen – even more so when you pair

that de­meanour with spir­ited char­ac­ter­is­tics.

But that’s prob­a­bly a given when you’re a weightlift­ing phe­nom among your peers.

In fact, Bok-joo doesn’t know much of a life out­side the realm of bar­bells and heavy weights. She grew up in a house­hold with a for­mer weightlifter as the pa­tri­arch.

The spunky teenager at­tends Han­wool Col­lege of Phys­i­cal Ed­u­ca­tion, a university full of young ath­letes hop­ing to get their big break and clinch na­tional glory.

The school is also where Bok-joo meets the male lead – the model-turned-ac­tor Nam Joohyuk as com­pet­i­tive swim­mer Jung Joon­hyung.

Both Bok-joo and Joon-hyung went to the same ele­men­tary school, but got out of touch. When they fi­nally re­unite in col­lege, plenty of com­edy en­sues.

This be­ing a K-drama, you can ex­pect that usual love tri­an­gle arc to take place. There’s the fiercely com­pet­i­tive rhyth­mic gym­nast Song Shi-ho (Kyung Soo-jin), Joon-hyung’s gor­geous ex who wants to get back with him af­ter fail­ing to make the cut at an­other pres­ti­gious sports school.

And then there’s Joon Hyung’s older cousin, Jung Jae-yi (Lee Jae-yoon) who is an obe­sity doc­tor.

A large chunk of the drama’s plot has to do with Bok-joo’s in­fat­u­a­tion with Jae-yi. One is a weightlifter who has to con­stantly bulk up, while the other is a physi­cian who helps pa­tients lose weight. Can you spot the cruel irony?

This one-sided ro­mance makes for a very com­plex de­ci­sion that shakes up Bok-joo’s view of life and soon she be­gins to ques­tion: Is there more that life can of­fer her aside from weightlift­ing?

At its core, Weightlift­ing Fairy is a heart­warm­ing com­ing-of-age tale with plenty of heart.

Its suc­cesses pri­mar­ily lies in a thought­fully-crafted story and re­lat­able char­ac­ters that you can’t help but root for. The sup­port­ing cast that pop­u­late this sporty af­fair is also not your usual one-di­men­sional char­ac­ters.

And we have got to ad­dress the in­fec­tious chem­istry be­tween Lee and Nam. Where Bok-joo is clumsy and brash, Joon-hyung is lithe and even-tem­pered. That con­trast­ing per­sonas do make for a very in­ter­est­ing dy­namic be­tween the char­ac­ters.

Need more rea­son to tune in? Well, Lee and Nam are cur­rently dat­ing in real life. K-drama fan­tasies do come true.

Weightlift­ing Fairy is avail­able on dim­sum.

- Photos: dim­sum

She ain't heavy. She's my for­mer class­mate

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