I have been looking forward to the Joe Cheng-Janine Chang drama YOU LIGHT UP MY STAR because the premise is really interesting about a very popular and successful onscreen tandem whose image begins to crack. Anything that offers a glimpse into the entertainment world is interesting to me so I was sold.
But almost four minutes into the drama, I almost stopped watching. Because of these:
I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry and I don’t think Do Min-joon will be very happy that aliens are portrayed like this in the drama.
But I shouldered on… and first episode later, I don’t know whether I should let this drama continue to light my, well, drama life.
But to be fair, it does have its entertaining parts plus a Fukuyama Masaharu cameo.
Janine plays Zhang Man Ling, the entertainment world’s sweetheart, while Joe Cheng is Liu Cheng Wei, the industry’s enfante terrible. They have been paired onscreen for seven years and their relationship has sort of morphed into the real world.
But I couldn’t help wondering how such a nice, sweet girl like Man Ling can put up with a royal asshole like Cheng Wei who can’t even act to save his life. All he does is frown and put up a tantrum and act all superstar-ish. He even has the gall to troll reporters with his answers during a press conference in Japan.
Q: Which part of Japan would you want to visit?
Q: If the world ends tomorrow, what would you do?
A: I would kill myself.
[The translator instead said he would spend his last few hours with his family, friends and fans.]
It’s close to home how these questions are so boring and doesn’t really offer anything new but in the drama, Cheng Wei (his English name is… Well) is handed the questionnaire with the answers that his manager had prepared for him, and that makes him scoff because he’s tired of saying the same things over and over. In short, he has to memorize a script. While in real life, that is what happens, I do wonder if stars really complain about the boring questions that they get… boring for the most part because those are what his handlers have approved.
Man Ling is the opposite of Cheng Wei; she’s earnest and even if she has probably heard those questions a million times they’re practically coming out of her ears, she still answers them sweetly with cliche answers, but at least, answers that do not give the translator nor her manager any nightmare.
Cheng Wei even badmouths the project that he’s supposed to promote and says,
“I don’t want everyone to remember me after watching this lousy production.”
On the other hand, Man Ling gives a boxed answer, something along the lines that she hopes everyone would enjoy the drama because she and the cast and crew have all worked hard to give the audience the best work. And yes, we have heard that cliche many times over we don’t believe it anymore.
YLUMS is both an approximation and exaggeration of what happens behind-the-scenes, that part of celebrity life that we do not see. After all, we only see the finished product or the carefully cultivated image closely monitored by a PR team, stylists and managers.
So we see Cheng Wei’s public meltdown and Man Ling’s heroine pain. And we also see that Janine is the better actor while Joe Cheng… it’s like watching an actor trapped in a drama within a drama. In other words, he’s acting and he’s making it obvious. And I’m sorry to say this, but in those scenes that he’s supposed to look vulnerable, he only manages to look
gay soft. The second lead, who eerily looks like Wu Chun, and is named Wu Chun Sheng (played by David Chiu… don’t ask who), shows a more engaging performance. And I’m looking forward to Sunny Wang’s appearance here. Oh, Ivy Chen also has a cameo and Teresa Meng plays this character that I can’t decide whether she’s a ghost or part of Cheng Wei’s hallucination; either way, out-of-this-world.
The drama’s director is Chu Yu Ning, who has collaborated with Joe in several of his dramas including IT STARTED WITH A KISS and THEY KISS AGAIN, with Ariel Lin. I wonder if the Cheng Wei-Man Ling tandem is somehow inspired by the Joe-Ariel pairing. Chu Yu Ning was also behind IN TIME WITH YOU and it may be stretching it to expect something similar to ITWY here. But I certainly expected better than a first episode that out to be this garish and confused, trying-hard-to-be-an-artsy drama (those voice-over scenes of Cheng Wei with him walking around like he’s in a stage play was cringe-worthy), like a planet that is trying to appear like a star in the sky.
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