‘Crazy Love’ review: enemies-to-lovers trope gone sideways
Written by ABR on 11/03/2022
The premise of KBS2 and Disney+’s new K-drama Crazy Love is strange, to say the least. It begins on a rather ludicrous note: a sea of fans camp outside an arena in Seoul, South Korea, decked with lightsticks, merchandise and more. It’s a fan-sign event for some unidentified celebrity, and we’re obviously deceived into thinking it’s for a K-pop idol. Here’s the kicker – it’s for… a math tutor?
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Noh Go-jin (Kim Jae-wook) is of course, not just any math tutor; we soon find out that he’s the best of the best, spearheading one of the most prestigious private education centres in the nation. But there is a catch. Go-jin is, suffice to say, a pretty ill-tempered and churlish man – he rules over his education centre in a manner easily comparable to a dictatorship. His presence and reputation as a short-fused tyrant commands fear from his peers and subordinates alike, and yet he is still somehow able to command their respect for his sheer talent in solving and teaching mathematics equations.
Dawdling behind Go-jin is his self-effacing personal assistant Lee Shin-a (Krystal Jung), who constantly finds herself bearing the brunt of his nasty temper, but somehow has put up with his tirades and become his longest-lasting secretary to date. Go-jin is unsparing in his mistreatment of Shin-a – he bellows in unfounded anger when his coffee isn’t exactly 80 degrees Celsius and chastises her cruelly when he spots onions in his sandwich. As if his cruelty toward Shin-a wasn’t enough, even the other instructors at the education centre are almost as pompous as he is.
Crazy Love then escalates all at once. Shin-a finds out that the endless migraines she has been experiencing were actually symptoms of glioblastoma, a malignant brain tumour that was the direct result of the stress brought about by working so closely with Go-jin. The underappreciated and overworked Shin-a finds herself in the final stages of her life – and she snaps. She breaks into his house in the dead of night to express her rage, slap him with her letter of resignation and pour a full bag of onions on his floor as revenge. Go-jin, taken aback that his constant abuse of Shin-a has finally backfired, runs out onto the street to chase her down and gets knocked down by a car driven by an unknown assailant.
Right off the bat, it’s just confusing why Go-jin and Shin-a would ever consider each other as romantic partners, let alone have the audience want to root for them. The show establishes them as complete opposites (that clearly hate each other with a passion), and not to mention the salient power gap between the pair. This clear-as-day and oft-used enemies-to-lovers trope would usually be an enthralling enough set-up, but something about the overly exaggerated way Crazy Love does it leaves a lot to be desired.
Then there’s the sheer absurdity of Crazy Love’s setting – its representation of the private education sector as some combative battleground, while probably meant as a comedic premise, is so half-baked in its execution that it completely goes over the audience’s heads. It even extends to the key plot point that kicks off the entire series – when faced with her impending death, why was Shin-a’s first order of business to put on some dark eyeshadow and break into her employer’s home… only to hand in a resignation letter? The show sorely glosses over the severity of such grave news and Shin-a’s reaction, even in a rom-com, in an attempt to play it up for some cheap laughs.
What really adds insult to injury is the show’s stellar cast. Both Kim Jae-wook and Krystal Jung are reputable actors with packed resumes, running the gamut from shows like Her Private Life, Police University and more. But, sadly, there is only so much both of them can do with a script that’s this lacklustre.
How writer Kim Bo-gyeom and director Kim Jung-hyun will try to bring Crazy Love back from the grave? Only time will be able to tell. So far, however, the series has already spread itself too thin in trying to keep up with its own bizarreness, and only two episodes in. Crazy Love will have to improve by leaps and bounds before it can substantiate the weirdness it’s trying to bring to the table.
New episodes of ‘Crazy Love’ air on KBS2 every Monday and Tuesday at 9:30pm KST, and are also available on Disney+ in the APAC region.
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