Matrimonial Chaos – Series Review

Now that it’s almost December, I think it’s safe to crown my winner as my favorite drama of 2018, and yes, it’s Matrimonial Chaos (aka The Best Divorce). This kind of drama appeals to me most, so it may not suit the tastes of others, but if you too appreciate relationship-driven stories where most situations and conversations are grounded in realities that are familiar to anyone who has had adult romances (with all their inherent ups and downs), then this series will win you over as well.

The story revolves around divorces and separations and reconciliations and new beginnings, but not always in expected ways. It’s each of those little twists and turns – pivots – that enliven the drama. It’s a remake of a Japanese drama, Saikou no Rikon, so I don’t know how much is unique to this production and how much echoes the original version’s plot, but I applaud the efforts of either (or both) writer.

Annoying Suk-mo (Cha Tae-hyun), dreamer Hwi-roo (Bae Doona), reserved Yoo-young (Lee El), and impulsive Jang-hyun (Son Suk-goo)… it’s easy to try and describe each of the four main characters by some of their more pronounced personality traits, but that shortchanges the actors and the writer because there is so much more to the “chaos.” In fact, by the end of the story, it’s easy to see how many traits each of the four share.

Suk-mo, a security guard, and Hwi-roo, a substitute gym teacher, are the first couple introduced. They’ve been married for 3 years and have entered the phase where each is feeling a bit unappreciated for the things they bring to the marriage. They’ve lost sight of the things that brought them together, and it seems that the nagging Suk-mo is the least content. They’ve retreated to their private moments to work on their respective dreams (he wants to be a musician, she a children’s storybook writer), instead of sharing these ambitions. They have an interesting support network, of sorts, in his step-grandmother Mi-sook, played by the lovely Moon Sook, who runs a cafe and is on a curling team with Hwi-roo, and Ma-roo (played by Kim Hye-joon), Hwi-roo’s younger sister, who works in the cafe.

They notice a man (Jang-hyun) in their neighborhood who appears to have at least one relationship going on (evoking envy in Hwi-roo, who misses the passionate days of her relationship with Suk-mo). It comes as a burdensome revelation to Suk-mo that he is the husband of Yoo-young, not the recipient of those witnessed heady embraces and coincidentally Suk-mo’s college love. He’s a product designer and art instructor and she runs a small clothing atelier where she designs and constructs women’s clothing.

To get further into the details, and without any significant spoilers, I’ll continue after the jump.

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#bae-doona, #cha-tae-hyun, #kim-hye-joon, #lee-el, #matrimonial-chaos, #moon-sook, #saikou-no-rikon, #son-suk-goo, #the-best-divorce

Sampling New Dramas – Matrimonial Chaos

In order to not completely break my heart in a hurry over Argon, I took a look at some of the titles available on Kocowa (might as well, now that I’m paying for it) and chose Matrimonial Chaos, with Bae Doona and Cha Tae-hyun. It’s currently on-air, so don’t rush to pick it up just yet, but on the strength of the first 6 hours worth of episodes (12), I’d say go ahead and put it on your watch list.

This type of story is completely my cup of tea; you have realistic couples with realistic relationship issues, a nice mix of contemporary issues, and a pleasing supporting cast.

Bae Doona (Hwi-roo) and Cha Tae-hyun (Suk-moo)are married couple one: she’s kind of impulsive, but very likable, whereas he’s kind of a blockhead who doesn’t really seem to appreciate his relationships with anyone, let alone his own wife. Lee El (Yoo-young) and Son Suk-goo (Jang-hyun) round out this story’s semi-quadrilateral relationship structure. She is Suk-moo’s college girlfriend, a clothing designer, who seems to be meekly married to serial cheater and artist Jang-hyun. Suk-moo meets his ex again (she’s a customer of the security company he works for) at a point in his life where just about everything in his marriage to Hwi-roo irritates him, and the story begins to upset apple carts everywhere.

I particularly like the woman who plays Suk-moo’s step-grandmother, actress (she and Hwi-roo belong to a curling team!) I think she had a small part in the first season of Age of Youth as the building owner. She’s got an interesting demeanor and role; she’s been divorced, she’s not a blood relative but seems to be the only person Suk-moo loves, she employs Hwi-roo’s younger sister, and seems to create an emotional shelter for anyone who comes into her cafe – even Jang-hyun, the ‘cad’.

Needless to say, Bae Doona is the main draw for me in any piece, and she once again effortlessly creates a relatable character. That Hwi-roo and Yoo-young can become friends even knowing that she’s her husband’s ex-girlfriend is not at all remarkable when you see what kind of open and frank good nature Bae gives her character. Lee El is playing someone so emotionally restrained, almost timid, but elegant – a nice change from the more typical strong and/or sexy types she often delivers – and Yoo-young’s past and present stories give her a nice touch of complexity.

Cha Tae-hyun’s Suk-moo is the husband-type I’d like to give a good kick in the pants because he is too busy counting all his disappointments that he doesn’t appreciate all his gifts. The way they’ve styled his hair too seems like a visual joke; he even looks like the blockhead Suk-moo is! He’s not a complete jerk, though, because he defends women, doesn’t hit on his ex (respects that she is married and he is too), and believes in living a decent/moral life (in a non-preachy way). Hey, any man who cooks dinner for his wife scores points with me! But Son Suk-goo’s Jang-hyun the ‘cad’ is the real puzzle piece in this story. I’m not familiar with the actor (he was in Mother, Suits, and Sense8), but he’s certainly delivering an unusual performance. Jang-hyun seems to almost sleepwalk his way through life, or thru lives, I should say; he goes from one girfriend’s bed to another, to home and to work, and in most every conversation he looks at others through his heavily-lidded eyes like he’s about to drop off. It’s a very low-energy performance, but it’s so curiously effective. I’m definitely interested in seeing how his story plays out.

Here’s the trailer for it:

#bae-doona, #cha-tae-hyun, #lee-el, #matrimonial-chaos, #moon-suk, #son-suk-goo, #wi-ha-joon