[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha" Episode 8
By William Schwartz | Published on
There's little plot to speak of as "Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha" moves into a holding pattern. There's something of a subplot as the generally nosy Chinese restaurant owner Nam-sook (played by Cha Chung-hwa) starts encouraging people to make medically questionable decisions at the dentist's office. The reasons behind Nam-sook's weirdly skinflint behavior when it comes to money are eventually explained. Despite acting like a confidence woman, Nam-sook's actual motivation turns out to be more sympathetic.
Elsewhere "Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha" tries to play up the romantic tension between Chief Hong and Hye-jin, with mixed results. Chief Hong works as a character mainly because he's so enigmatic, and it's genuinely difficult to tell what's motivating him. So it feels a bit off when Chief Hong actually sounds kind of jealous any time Seong-hyeon pays any kind of attention to Hye-jin. Chief Hong plays this off as being protective, which doesn't really make sense as Seong-hyeon isn't dangerous.
The overall change is super subtle, to the point it's perfectly plausible that none of the other characters notice it. I just can't really visualize Chief Hong having straightforward romantic feelings for Hye-jin because of the aloof way his character's been drawn so far. Now, Hye-jin having feelings for Chief Hong is much easier to suss out. He's magnaminous and protective, a truly reliable man who can always be counted on in a time of need.
But some times of need are more appropriate to the setting than others. Take the weird guy at night who we can tell is sinister because his presence is accompanied by ominous musical cues. There's nothing close to a payoff on that particular plot hook, it's only just barely a set-up. Yet it still feels awkward in context. "Let's Eat" came to mind in part because while that drama had similarly disjointed genre shifts, those were always far more deliberate and purposeful in the context of the larger mystery.
Of course, I'm not sure anyone really remembers that particular aspect of "Let's Eat" anymore. That drama was popular because of its surprisingly prescient dramatization of the then rapidly mainstreaming of foodie subculture in South Korea. "Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha" is just the latest iteration of that subculture, and is still perfectly effective in regards to that goal. If the preview is anything to go by, though, the drama's relatively static holding pattern is about to get a badly needed jump start in the conflict department.
Review by William Schwartz
"Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha" is directed by Yoo Je-won, written by Sin Ha-eun, and features Shin Min-a, Kim Seon-ho, Lee Sang-yi, Gong Min-jung, Seo Sang-won-I, Woo Mi-hwa. Broadcasting information in Korea: 2021/08/28~Now airing, Sat, Sun 21:10 on tvN.
Staff writer. Has been writing articles for HanCinema since 2012, having lived in South Korea since 2011. Started out in Gyeongju, then to Daegu, then to Ansan, then to Yeongju, then to Seoul, lived on the road for HanCinema's travel diaries series in the summer of 2016, and is currently settled in Anyang. Has good tips for utilizing South Korea's public bus system. William Schwartz can be contacted via email@example.com. He also has a substack at williamschwartz.substack.com where he discusses the South Korean film industry in broader terms and takes suggestions for future movies to review.