A Business Proposal (2022) Going beyond contractual obligations
Although I don’t hold this drama with the same effusive devotion that most do, there are things that I like about it or I certainly wouldn’t be watching and writing about it. At its core is a contract relationship and the journey of watching two practical strangers falling for each other despite all the baggage that they’ve brought into this dynamic is almost always magical regardless of what brings brings them together in the first instance. Recycled jokes and tropes can only go so far before they smell of stale bread. Sooner or later there needs to be meat on offer ie. something more of substance like the inclusion of the justification for two people who initially come together out of convenience or to solve a problem… to have a change of mind… and heart. Eventually they have to get to the place of wanting more than just the convenience of being part of such an arrangement. The piece of paper which is proof of a contractual agreement becomes a starting point for the pairing to arrive at a happier, more fulfilling reality that is only hinted at by the written document.
Of late the conniving and strategic Kang Tae-mu orchestrates for he and Ha-ri to end up at a beach where a popular hamburger truck that’s on her bucket list happens to show up. No doubt it’s a delightful gesture and it’s sweeter still that Tae-mu refuses to brag openly about setting the whole thing up just for her. It shows development but most importantly it signals a new set of priorities that is driven by something that’s both pragmatic and impassioned. What gave me the feels was the bit where he goes down on bended knee again, this time to tie up her shoelaces. His observation here is instructive: “It was like this that day too. Shin Geum-hui or Shin Ha-ri, I guess this is the same” It harkens back to another occasion where Ha-ri trips over her ridiculously high heels and does a Cinderella as well as the other time where she loses her rubber slipper on the run around the office corridors trying to avoid detection. She rewards his cryptic comment with a somewhat bewildered look. Yes, Shin Ha-ri is the clumsiest girl in our acquaintance but she’s consistently clumsy… and her clumsiness is no act. She is the real deal.
As has been said repeatedly, the humour in the show doesn’t do much for me in general but it is for scenes like those, that I keep coming back. Tae-mu has decided that he likes the woman regardless of whether she wears classy high heels badly or casual sneakers carelessly. The woman by any other name is still Shin Ha-ri. Regardless of whether she was pretending to be someone else, there’s something about her that is authentically “her” regardless of the wardrobe and the accessories. All of this is demonstrably proof that he genuinely likes her because it isn’t the cover story that he was attracted to but the part of Shin Geum-hui aka Shin Ha-ri that the cover story couldn’t conceal. Interestingly enough while he likes her enough to go to all the trouble of tracking down the food truck and enticing the owner with a hefty compensation for his troubles, that’s just Tae-mu’s “cover story” to access her heart. What’s really important for a man like him is his precious time. That is his most valued commodity. He takes the time out of his normally busy day to show her a good time at all her favourite eateries in an out of the way location. That’s his love language as it were. Money is no object for a man like him. His family owns flashy restaurants for a pastime. But he’s wise enough to realise by now that she’s a down-to-earth, hardworking person who isn’t bedazzled by his wealth in the slightest. The only thing they have in common is work. Work is his lure because it is their common ground from which he hopes to have a much more personal encounter with her.
On top of all that, Tae-mu proves in this scene that he’s eager to change the dynamic of their relationship. They’re out of the office and out of work clothes into an atmosphere that’s more relaxed. This differing context allows him another opportunity to play boyfriend while donning the mask of being her boss for fear of frightening her off with an abrupt shift in relationship dynamics.
This leads me to consider another aspect of the drama which is its treatment of lies and all manner of prevarications. It’s a huge plot driver for this show which on some level makes sense for a contract relationship. There is fallout for the deception and this helps make all the insanity rather more palatable. Furthermore, it also occurs to me that Young-seo seems to be the primary instigator here and Ha-ri ends up carrying the can. For the most part. More recently Young-seo lies in front of their friends that Ha-ri is seeing someone tall, rich and handsome which Tae-mu (in possession of superhuman hearing) is only too willing to step in and perpetuate the narrative of without any collusion with Young-seo that we know of. It’s doubled-edged sword and these lies have a way of taking a life of their own. Same thing with Tae-mu trying to take Ha-ri to the movies under the guise of “doing research” for work. His lack of openness about his real motive there sees him thrown out of the cinema that he booked out and paid for. Moreover the excursion to Sokcho almost turns into another disaster too. Except that wanting to take her to the beach was a sincere, no strings attached gesture on his part. Young-seo when under the influence of alcohol says finally says what’s really in her heart, finally gets what she wants from Sung-hoon. Sung-hoon, on paper, is my favourite character because he represents an old-fashioned common sense that seems to be in short supply, acting as the voice of reason in an environment where he witnesses one form of prevarication after another in disbelief.
But is honesty really the best policy? It’s not entirely clear. Perhaps. At the very least it feels like it would have been a lot less complicated and it might have prevented some of the angst that resulted. There seems to be some indication that even if Tae-mu hadn’t met Ha-ri at that blind date, he would still have found her at her lab and fallen for her eventually.
Still the show thrives on some measure of dramatic irony. For instance Ha-ri looks at her phone awaiting a call from Tae-mu during a meet-up with former uni friends. They think she’s waiting for a call from her boyfriend. Young-seo tells fibs about Ha-ri having a boyfriend and then later at the end of the episode, Tae-mu strolls into a conversation and introduces himself as Ha-ri’s boyfriend. Of course it suits him to keep up with the charade with that timely entrance.
I have wondered in the past if Min-woo ever had feelings for Ha-ri. It seems like he probably did, latently and perhaps it is because of that he had that on again, off again relationship with Yoo-ra. Rather like the love triangle in In Time With You. My suspicion is that Min-woo is like Ariel Lin’s character in that unconsciously he has always liked Ha-ri but never made the leap or the connection that there was anything more particularly because Ha-ri was passively comforting while waiting and Yoo-ra was always more assertive in her feelings. There’s no doubt Min-woo took Ha-ri for granted all this time — that she’d be there for him no matter what girlfriend comes and goes. Now that there’s the prospect of another party interfering with Min-woo’s comfort zone, it’s causing him to feel uneasy. The idea that some other guy could disrupt the status quo is probably going to make Min-woo rethink his relationship with the two women in earnest. Min-woo with Yoo-ra hanging off his arm acting on the territorial side will be all kinds of mayhem and fun but the truth is… as the old proverb says “the early bird catches the worm”. It is too bad for him that he has been asleep at the wheel the entire time although I would venture to say that what is one man’s loss in this instance is another man’s gain.