“Chocolate” Is One Of Ha Ji Won Most Disappointing Dramas In Recent Years- “Chocolate” Review

19

JTBC drama “Chocolate” has concluded its run a couple of days ago; it was led by Ha Ji Won, Yoon Kye Sang, and Jang Seung Jo. It received average ratings fluctuating between 3% and 4% during its runtime.

Since I’ve checked out this drama, I wanted to talk about it but due to the majority expressing how much they liked “Chocolate,” I wondered if it was necessary at all but after giving it much thought and watching the drama, I decided to talk about it because I think it’s an interesting case-study of how far some writers have evolved since the hallyu wave gained momentum and how some of them are stuck at a standstill.





Note: as you can read from the title, this review is subjective and it’s about my opinion, not anyone else’s. Take it with a grain of salt and please know that I am not trying to diss/hurt anyone but discuss the drama.

Before we start, I want us to be on the same page on what the word ‘disappointing’ means in this case, it doesn’t mean that “Chocolate” was flat out bad or an awful drama, it’s an emotional drama for many, but to me, the overall story fell short of expectations, thus I’ve come to the conclusion that “Chocolate” was disappointing.

My biggest issue with “Chocolate” was the way the characters were structured and it’s the reason why I couldn’t take “Chocolate” as seriously as many have, I just thought it was too convenient and cringy at times.

Writer Lee Kyoung Hee who wrote “Chocolate” is known for doing cheesy overly emotional/dramatic scripts and in this case, it’s no different. It’s sad that JTBC gave the green light to such a drama considering how they’ve dominated 2019 with amazing scripts such as “SKY Castle” and “Be Melodramatic.”

It’s also very concerning that Writer Lee Kyoung Hee has almost never changed the way she writes. She’s a veteran writer but I can hardly notice any changes to the way she constructs her scripts 10 years ago versus now. Times have changed and for Writer Lee Kyoung Hee to continue using the same tropes over and over again in a similar format is sad with all honesty, but not unlikely considering the fact that she’s a veteran writer who’s been in the industry for so long, some writers just can’t break free from the mold they created for themselves.

She was responsible for many hit kdramas I liked but as I grew older such types of scripts are hardly as interesting or as innovative as they used to. I think if “Chocolate” was released in 2010, the ratings would’ve been double of what it got.

“Chocolate” in its format and structure is very similar to a kdrama that would probably be a great fit for the early 2000s yet it was somehow released in 2019, very puzzling considering how people’s taste changed over time and how little such types of scripts gain attention these days. The 3-4% ratings are actually good for a cable drama; I would’ve expected it to do worse considering the script direction but I know that people came for the actors and stayed for the heartwarming- cheesy at times- story.

The 2D characters

“Chocolate” has so many 2D characters, I don’t know where to begin and what to address first. They do grow and change over time but, for a start, the characters and their surroundings are annoyingly repetitive.

I was especially disappointed with Ha Ji Won’s character above all else, she’s straight out of a Cinderella story and feels so foreign and distant from a realistic portrayal of the modern woman, she’s so kind and so perfect in her own way that she doesn’t make sense as a realistic character. Almost princess-like and I mean it in the least compelling way possible.





She’s hit with many tragedies growing up and they play in a way that’s very dramatic and repetitive. She’s treated so poorly by her surroundings yet instead of adapting, she stays the same, so effortlessly kind, it doesn’t make any sense. She’s the classic damsel in distress that needs a saving by a hot and bothered male lead who treats her- oftentimes- like shit. How many more kdramas are writers going to pull out with the same scenario over and over again? I am shocked that in 2019, we still have such types of scripts coming out….

I was so shocked when a popular actress of Ha Ji Won’s caliber chose this character; I don’t mind sensitive vulnerable characters as long as the circumstances that led to the formation of such a character make sense, and in this case, they hardly do.

The second character I found to be absolutely annoying was her brother, Tae Hyeon, which felt like a vehicle designed to make us fall in love with Cha Young and pity her, a classical move by writers but it’s done in a way that couldn’t have made less sense.





He treats her like his wallet; he’s stupid, clingy and annoying. Despite such characteristics, he manages to find her when she’s in Europe and anywhere else and for some very odd reason; she’s still forced to look after him as if Europe is similar in its structure to South Korea…. As someone who lives there, I was shaking my head the entire time…

He’s an absolute jerk and yet somehow for the convenience of the plot becomes all mushy and kind when he finds out that his sister could probably end up losing her sight. He stays 2D for the majority of the drama runtime and when we’re at the end, he changes to this kind brother who cares about his sister.

The same goes for every main character in “Chocolate,” they’re all 2D and very similar to characters Writer Lee Kyoung Hee wrote previously if you don’t believe me, take a look at her works.





Applying the same character description to all your works is with all honesty lazy writing. How about writing eccentric characters that are different? How about experimenting a bit?

This is not to say that Lee Kang didn’t bother me but as a character, I could explain the reason he turned out this way, there was a logical explanation for the way his character ended up. He’s still a jerk at times and disrespectful towards the female lead but understood.

When I was 18 years old, I fell head over heels for characters like Lee Kang, but as I grew older, the bad-rich-hot guy trope doesn’t do the trick for me anymore because it’s so overdone that’s it’s becoming annoying at this point. I don’t find the hot rich guy who’s often rude hot anymore, he’s simply a jackass that’s not worthy of respect.

I won’t dive deep into how kdramas tricks women into believing they can ‘change’ a man or how women are often these vulnerable weak and poor characters that always need a saving, but I can tell you how it’s been bothering me more as time goes by as a woman. We’re more than that and to imply that we always love those bad boys is also wrong.

Many women who have self-respect wouldn’t take in or tolerate a character like Lee Kang or Lee Jun in real life. And for a drama like “Chocolate” who deals with real-life scenarios and the topic of inescapable death, this scenario doesn’t fit the overall vibe the writer is going for.

The script and the use of many classical tropes

Every single meeting and a lot of the key moments in “Chocolate” has been already re-created at least 300 times in other kdramas over the past 30 years. Down to the most crucial moments, the way Lee Kang is treated by his family, the way he treats Cha-Young or the way life treats Cha-Young throwing her from one place to the other in a dramatic fashion.





The thing I liked about “Chocolate” was the topic of hospice, that’s an interesting idea that will keep the audience attached because there are so many ways you can spin the script to your benefit to make sure the audience sticks around. It’s a concept that has been explored previously in other kdramas but it’s not overly used, yet.

“Chocolate” did a great job integrating stories of people at the hospice and tying them to our characters that I would’ve loved for it to have been the main focus even more instead of the cliché scenes we get in between stories about struggling families who have to coup with the impending death of a loved one.

Everything is too convenient with “Chocolate,” there is little room for a surprise; I could tell how everything will pan out from episode 5.

The writer uses the cliché love triangle that was so uncalled for to help both characters realize their feelings. Lee Kang and Cha-Young spend almost the entire drama unaware or denying they have feelings for each other, such type of scenario is expected from a teenage drama not a drama about people in their mid-thirties. The characters behave oftentimes like kids despite how old they look, that’s not to say there isn’t an abundance of such people in real life but the way it plays out is odd and uncalled for.

I want to bring up the pacing of this drama briefly; I found that at times we were hit with too many happenings all at once, and at times, almost nothing happened. There are around 3-5 episodes that had many scenes that often served no purpose and were repetitive.

“Chocolate” also didn’t need to be 16 episodes long; the same material could’ve been crammed into 12 episodes and it would have probably ended up serving the drama better justice.

Why it’s the most disappointing Ha Ji Won work in recent years

I am a huge fan of Ha Ji Won, I’ve seen almost all of her kdramas and have seen her growth as an actress, and her choice here is the reason I am writing this article in the first place. I am just very disappointed.

Ha Ji Won might have questionable drama choices but at least they were always interesting and fun despite all their flaws. Following her hiatus for almost two years, I expected an epic comeback with a unique drama, she has a loyal fanbase and many would watch any work she puts out, I believe she has the luxury to be picky, despite that, we ended up with “Chocolate.”

Taking a look at Ha Ji Won’s filmography I realized quickly that “Chocolate” is by far one of her most boring and least compelling works in recent years, in my opinion, and what I’ve explained above is why I’ve reached this conclusion.

Conclusion

“Chocolate” is by no mean a terrible or awful drama but to me, it fell short of expectations which were high, to say the least, I trusted Ha Ji Won would pick a more interesting project, something that is not so repetitive, something more interesting and unique.

“Chocolate” had many great scenes and tells heart-wrenching stories. All the actors were amazing, I have nothing but nice things to say about everyone’s performance, it was easily what carried the drama despite its flaws.

Because of how well they embodied their characters, the drama came to life even when at times their dialogue was too repetitive or unrealistic, they did their best.

I think I would’ve liked “Chocolate” more if it had been 12 episodes long and if it had focused on the aspect of the hospice apart from the family feud and their thirst to control the place. The ideas that could come out of a hospice are a dream for writers because there is a lot you can do with such a setting.

There were many times I felt bored or forced myself to watch because everyone was saying all those nice things about “Chocolate,” I felt that I might’ve misjudged the drama so I kept coming back to try and see what I’ve missed, I think that the characters really threw me off and prevented me from immersing myself in “Chocolate,” if they were a bit different or less stereotypical, I would’ve never written this article.

So these are my thoughts on “Chocolate,” what did you guys think of it? did you like it or not?

19 COMMENTS

  1. You completely contradict yourself…still wondering did you like it or not? I liked it very much and completely disagree with your characterization of the drama. I think the leads played their roles perfectly and did not find the female lead weak or boring. Society has changed but not that much and to think that you create strong characters therefore it must be so is incorrect. We are still in a time and place where people suffer and are affected by so many things including their childhood as well as their environment. I felt the main characters stories were a reflection of the hospice stories and even after so much suffering one can dig deep and find true happiness. The acting was beyond amazing as was the actors abilities to bring the viewer along in their raw emotion. Everyone I know who has watched Chocolate has loved it and appreciated it for its complexity and ability to draw the viewer in without realizing they are being drawn in.

    • do you understand what the word ‘contradict’ means? I am talking about what points I disliked vs. what points I liked. and I had to talk about how great the acting was, where is the contradiction. I never said it was flat out bad but at the same times its nothing special. it has great stories but the characters are 2D, whats contradictory about that? in reviews, people usually do this, they write about what they liked and disliked.

  2. 100% true, this is based your taste… but you shouldnt put your taste questioning other people taste… why ha ji won picked this such drama… i love the story, so does other fans… will you question us why we live this kind of story? Your post can crash the peoples’ curiosity, be wise when you want to post a thing, the title of this post is suck and it ruins the hope of peoples’ work…put some respect who you are… too dare valuing and sharing such rude post

    • where is the ‘rude’ when I respectfully expressed my opinion about her drama stating that its mine and only mine. you’re at a blog about subjective reviews commenting on how i shouldn’t post it… if u didn’t like it, click off. also, if one post is going to crash people’s curiosity, i have no idea why they’re on the internet because judging by your words, every post that is critical of anything will possibly crash their expectations

  3. I didn’t like this drama at first. in fact I had stopped watching it after a few episodes. But somehow I came back and continued watching it and I liked it. Well honestly (this is just my opinion), the first 7 episodes are depressing and nerve-wracking. I despised Yoon Kye Sang’s jerky character and I found Ha Ji Won’s character a bit infuriating. But as I watched the drama further, the impression changed. The chemistry between the leads grow and the story becomes apt and satisfying. Overall this drama is an emotional roller coaster. It carefully shows the difficulties and emotions of each characters brilliantly. Not to mention the spectacular cinematography and the soothing OSTs. It was a good watch, I liked it 🙂

  4. Yes but subjectively, I loved the ways characters are set, that’s how some people are. Traumas, fights, friendships and live. And the scenes of the hospice, how well they were shown and portrayed, the importance of every person highlighted. In the midst of it, she made chocolate. The cooking scenes and Greece were the essential factors that added to it an Elysian factor, like a fluid dream. I cried so much and loved it so much, and every time I have similar hard experiences or am sick, I wonder about this story, and ponder, do you like chocolate?

  5. Why did Wang lied about how his mother died? That is very confusing. Because of that lie, I cannot buy into a happy ending. Lies are eventually revealed which causes problems. I was left disappointed and not believing in their love.

  6. Yes indeed! To sum it up, it’s very boring and dragging. I’ve watched all Hajiwon’s dramas and chocolate is very far from the Hajiwon you can imagine… not to mention the other characters. Her character doesn’t suit her at all and the story itself is on point – repetitive!

  7. Your critique is spot on. I cherish wonderfully scripted love stories, however tragic or happy the ending. But Chocolate’s plot and character arcs in the end fell off the cliff, flatlined and left me wanting.

    Chocolate missed the opportunity to resolve the main characters’ issues. Why did Cha need to flee to Greece and leave behind Korea and her very new boyfriend whom she had longed for over 20 years? Why did Kang deny to Cha that it was his mother that gave the chocolate to her? She seemed grateful to the lady who helped save her life. Didn’t Cha have a brain injury? Cha and Kang’s relationship was abruptly cut short. They were not given the chance to support each other in dealing with personal issues.

    Chocolate is a childish plot that fails to mature. It chose instead to focus on one too many feel good side stories with the hospice and endless flashbacks to stretch Chocolate into 16 episodes.

  8. I liked this film a lot. I preferred it to the high school/college style sappy and almost childlike, unrealistic romance which has dominated the Korean film scene for quite a while now.

    As a 26-year-old, I found this film to be quite entertaining and mature. I didn’t particularly like the last two episodes which seemed rushed and incomplete.
    The progression of the storyline and how the romance blossomed was beautifully written. The film tackled issues that are relatable and realistic. Though filled with a lot of tragedies, I found it well-balanced with sprinkles of humour and romance. The cooking scenes were a breath of fresh air and added zest to the film. The music ost was top-notch.

    Overall, a very good film to watch

  9. Ha Ji Won did not disappoint me at all in the drama Chocolate. In my opinion she gave a great performance. If anything, the script may have been lacking, as I explain below.

    I like or dislike a drama based on my opinion of the script and/or acting ability of the performers.

    I enjoyed Chocolate for both reasons. I felt the actors did a great job and I liked the premise of the story. If there was a weakness with the script, I felt it with some episodes dragging a little and in the way some of the episodes ended non-conclusively, leaving you hanging without a follow up at the next episode.

    If I don’t like the script/story, that’s a separate issue from the actors’ performances.

    Overall, I found Chocolate to be very enjoyable.

  10. OMG i soooo agree. I’m in epi 11 and i just can not finish it. So so boring. Episode 11 and i am still waiting for something to happen. Its torture.

  11. Spot on observation. I love Ha Hi Won but was turned off by poor pacing, casting, acting and vapid storyline. The incessant shouting by the actors make an ideal drama for the hearing challenged. Stopped at Ep 5.Too painful. Such a disappointment.

  12. Hmm
    I understand what you mean by repetitive storyline
    This is why I have not been watching any kdrama for years until recently watched goblin and I really love it
    But now I am watching chocolate because I like yks
    And I think it’s not as bad as you think mentioned
    I think why you get bored because it doesn’t have much dramatic scenes in it like other dramas
    But I rather feel it’s easier to go with the flow of the drama
    And I also don’t really like love storyline but I think it’s not really focused on the storyline it is how the characters let go of their pain by helping or seeing other people story

    I think there’s Change the drama show
    At least if for other kdrama there will focus on revenge which many viewers will like
    But this drama focus on really how to heal the hearts

    If you just take it as a simple drama to watch I think it is really a great drama for a simple heartwarming touch to your life

    And I don’t think Lee Kang no respect to girls but he is cold towards everyone

    But I think why hjw take this drama is really not as heavy or dramatic like other dramas she used to be in. I think she wants to try new character
    And to an actor a simple character is a million times harder to portray well
    And I think she did quite well

    And I love the actors acting very good

    But to be honest I too think they can focus more on other patients storyline than the main characters love storyline
    To be honest I also don’t really like love storyline in this drama because I think it is no different with other kdrama love storyline

    But I think I like it’s simple and not too dramatic

  13. Sorry for the late comment, I loved it after watching it on Netflix.. It’s simple and touching….and with hajiwon’s decision to make this film, she’s in the time of her career that she can choose… Maybe she chose this for its simplicity and to work with the director and writer plus she just gone thru the pain of losing her brother(one way of coping mechanism for her since the story was all about life in general) and its pre recorded more advantages for her plus just 16 episodes.. I thinks she’s still searching for the right project that keeps on slipping thru her fingers… Knowing her capabilities she’s going to comeback stronger

  14. I completely agree – not only was it repetitive in itself, it copied from other shows. The falling building – from “Just Between Lovers,” the random Libya adventure – from “Descendants of the Sun,” it was pathetic. The worst music too, in the most awkward times.

    What’s the deal with mothers just abandoning children in this show? Why don’t we ever hear about CY’s upbringing between ages 12-30? Who took her in? Who sent her to school? Is she a self-taught chef or what? Her “long story” was just a rehash of one day when she was 11, then a jump to her 30’s. Hello?! I’ve been hearing this “story” for 14 episodes, sheesh.

    The cooking part was cool, except realistically CY would be in the kitchen far more, cooking for the patients instead of just wandering off in the middle of making donuts or whatever to go drive to the beach. Come on. The hospice locale was entertaining, but I couldn’t get behind the guy playing Kang. Yuck. He was tolerable when he just sat there staring at the wall, but by the end when he’s THE BOYFRIEND he just gave me the creeps.

    This drama will be quickly forgotten! And I’m glad I’m not the only one who thought it was a meh…

  15. Thank you! I was looking for a review that validated how I felt about this drama. The most romantic scenes at the end of the drama felt like necrofilia fue to the lack of emotion on both characters, which as you mentioned, was fine 10 or 15 tears ago, but not now. I was more excited about the stories of the patients, than the main characters.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.