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K-drama ● Review: VIP

English Title: VIP

Korean Title: 브이아이피

Director(s): Lee Jung-rim

Screenwriter(s): Cha Hye-won

Studio: Story Works Released: 2019

Runtime: 16 episodes, 1h each.

Starring: Jang Na-ra, Lee Sang-yoon, Lee Chung-ah, Kwak Sun-young, Pyo Ye-jin, Shin Jae-ha, Park Sung-geun


My Verdict: Office infidelity done as a mystery-thriller. Sounds totally stupid, but is actually a solid drama about infidelity and its consequences.


VIP

● Na Jung-sun (Jang Na-ra) works in a department store, specifically in a team that looks after VIP customers. Her husband Park Sung-joon (Lee Sang-yoon) is the manager of the team. One night, Jung-sun receives an anonymous message claiming that her husband is cheating with one of the three women on the team: Lee Hyun-ah (Lee Chung-ah), Song Mi-na (Kwak Sun-young) or Ohn Yoo-ri (Pyo Ye-jin).


● The series follows Jung-sun’s efforts to uncover the truth and deal with the fallout once she does. The narrative initially is of a mystery-thriller with lots of clues that also serve as misdirection. In other words, any of the three women could be the culprit or not. Sung-joon also seems like a genuinely decent guy who wouldn’t cheat so there is some added complexity there.


Na Jung-sun (Jang Na-ra)
Na Jung-sun (Jang Na-ra)
Park Sung-joon (Lee Sang-yoon)
Park Sung-joon (Lee Sang-yoon)

● When the premise and plot are described this way—a mystery-thriller about possible cheating in the office—the series comes across as totally stupid, but it is very well executed in almost every respect.


● As the clues of who may be cheating with Jung-sun’s husband are presented by delving into their lives, the audience gets to know these characters and those around them and their struggles. The characters aren’t necessarily that complex but their life circumstances are, so they still come across as complex and realistic.


● With four women as main characters, one may be tempted to think it may be too focused on women. Thankfully, this is not some woke-feminist series; it’s not as if all female characters are good and/or competent and all male characters are bad and/or incompetent. Either way, whilst the focus is on Jung-sun and the other three women, her husband Sung-joon and others are not entirely ignored.


● Also, in a way that is actually relevant to Jung-sun’s life, the plot involves corporate politics. The team is under VP Ha Jae-woong (Park Sung-geun) who Sung-joon works closely with. In some ways, Sung-joon is his right-hand man. The VP has his own problems and ambitions, including scheming against his own brother who is another VP in the family-owned company.


● As already mentioned, when describing the premise, it reads or sounds totally stupid. Or worse, it sounds like it glorifies infidelity. But the story is not just about cheating in the office. In a way, and without spoiling, since the audience is barely shown the act of cheating, one could say it is not about the cheating itself; it is about what can lead to it and its widespread and destructive repercussions. It certainly does not glorify or trivialize it.


● Initially, it might to some seem to glorify the prestige of the corporate culture, only to reveal the toxicity of certain people and their so-called politics.


Lee Hyun-ah (Lee Chung-ah)
Lee Hyun-ah (Lee Chung-ah)

● Thankfully, the series is not cheesy in that it unnecessarily goes for the melodrama and tries to be “emotional”. If anything, as it is done like a mystery-thriller, it is actually a little cold and distant at times. This is sometimes literally conveyed by the palette and shot composition.


Song Mi-na (Kwak Sun-young)
Song Mi-na (Kwak Sun-young)

● It is good to see Jang Na-ra not be typecast as a “weak and helpless victim”. Jung-sun may be a victim but she tries to handle the situation coolly and discreetly. Jang Na-ra and Lee Sang-yoon really do come across as husband and wife who work well in the same office.


● The other main roles are also solid: Lee Chung-ah is the cool Lee Hyun-ah; Kwak Sun-young does well as Song Mi-na, a mother who works hard to keep her position in the team; Pyo Ye-jin is Ohn Yoo-ri, a young woman who is new to the VIP team. All three have something to hide, but they also have their strengths and vulnerabilities, so they have enough pathos.


Ohn Yoo-ri (Pyo Ye-jin)
Ohn Yoo-ri (Pyo Ye-jin)

● Overall, it is a solid drama about infidelity and its consequences. There is a proper ending with a resolution of sorts. Is there a message of hope? Possibly. As already mentioned, it doesn’t overdo the whole melodrama thing but it does get a bit gloomy at times.

 

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