Easing Into 2017 With A Duo of Cdramas: Ode to Joy and Stay With Me

Ode to Joy

I was nonchalant about this drama when it first aired even when there was so much hype around it. My mom was watching it over the summer of 2016 and she was hooked. I finally picked it up over the winter break when I had plenty of free time to kill.

A slice of life drama about five women of different backgrounds and age group but ultimately it is about the friendships, girl-power and sorority which won me over.

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New to cdramas, I didn’t know much about any of these actors so star power was definitely not the reason I started watching except maybe for Wang Kai. But his is a minor role and in the end, it wouldn’t have factored into my take on this show. In a nutshell, I loved it.

There is something about a story of seemingly five ordinary women living ordinary lives in one of the most populated and expensive mega-cities in the world.

There is the glitz and glamour of modern Shanghai through the eyes of second generation rich, Xiao Xiao; the high power commerce and wealth of 21st century China through Ivy League prodigy An Di; the inner struggles of leftover woman, Sheng Mei, trying to overcome her humble beginnings by hoping to marry rich; the small town clueless and naive Ying Ying, awkwardly navigating social order and office politics in the big city and last, but not least, your average good girl intern Guan Guan, struggling to land a full-time position without having to betray her values and principles.

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All five women face very real-life challenges at work and in love. What I really appreciate about this drama is that the storyline and plots are very real.The women bicker, they gossip, they bad-mouth each other, they get envious but when push comes to shove, friendships trump all else and sisterhood prevails. These are all innately good people who just happen to come into each other’s lives as tenants of the 22nd floor in the apartment complex known as “Ode to Joy”.

The beauty of this story lies with its simplicity. Mind you, it is simplicity laced with dramatic plot twists for entertainment value. Aided by the brilliant acting of its casts and blessed with the right kind of direction, the result is a well-rounded, complete production.

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The five women learn to care deeply about each other without hidden agendas, malice or intent. Unbeknownst to them, the comradeship flourishes naturally. No makjang back-stabbing plot-twists or over-the-top acting required. Maybe Ying Ying and Xiao Xiao can embellish some of their screen time but nothing that will detract from their importance to the story.

The men are all secondary but equally deserving in their roles as each woman’s love interest. You have the hateful superior taking advantage of the naive, the quietly suffering friend and boss, the flamboyant doctor, the hometown admirer, the attentive and eloquent pursuers and your circle of sleazy rich men out for one-night stands.

Ode to Joy is not your typical drama. Like my other favourite, Misaeng, it is about life and life’s lessons packaged into one compelling story well worth watching. (9/10)

Stay With Me

Stay With Me is a rom-com slash light-hearted romantic melo about too many second chances, obsessive love and a fairly weak case of revenge by proxy. The story has some ridiculous, rather makjang-like elements and is full of plot-holes but at the same time is addictively funny and heartwarming.

Wang Kai is sizzling hot playing a romantic lead, a genre that is somewhat new for him and I have to say he does not disappoint. Joe Chen’s already a proven actress and gotta give it to her pulling off a character that on some less capable actresses may come off as annoying and silly. But in the hands of Joe Chen, she gives Wei Wei an edge and a backbone but at the same time gives us the comic relief that is part and parcel of this character. Their natural chemistry is one of the highlight of this show.

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The draw of Wang Kai may have enticed me to watch this drama and it did have enough content to keep me glued. I almost wanted to drop it at 30+ episodes when our lovely OTP keeps going back and forth breaking up and making up – one too many times. Characters don’t seem to have a constancy about them, changing colors too frequently – forgiving and forgetting seem to be the mantra of the day. The second and third OTPs are decent and deserve the screen time, giving the show an added notch of flair. But the uncle and sidekick pair got under my skin. I find these two serving very little purpose other than screen fillers and agitating the heck out of everyone.

The production set is very chic and modern. Whether it is the offices, the residences, restaurants or even the hospital, you see a very rich and slick Shanghai. Granted, it is about high fashion and the characters are all wealthy. Something I’ve noticed lately with many of the contemporary cdramas. Product placement is also front and center. Quite blatant and after 30+ episodes it can get a bit in your face.

Leave your brains at home, just soak it in for pure entertainment and enjoy this perfectly imperfect show. (7.5/10)

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