You Light Up My Star snuck up on me and premiered last Sunday to my great (but pleasant) surprise. I had recalled some news trickling in here and there about the scale of this drama, but I somehow missed all of the big promotional materials before its premiere. Director Winnie has to be my all time favorite TW drama director (ISWAK, In Time With You), so I know that I can trust him to deliver on the directorial front. Acting-wise, Joe Cheng can be hit or miss for me – loved him in ISWAK, hated him in Love or Bread. And Janine isn’t an actress I’ve fallen in love with, but I do generally enjoy her presence on the screen. Which meant that I was pretty excited about this drama (once I realized it was premiering).
So after watching the first episode, I was surprised, to say the least, about the tone of the drama, which was much darker and melodramatic than most of the works I’ve come to associate Director Winnie (and idol drama actors) with. It reminded me of the tone of Summer’s Desire, which ironically was also about the acting/entertainment industry. What’s with portraying the acting industry as something extremely dark and depressing?
You Light Up My Star is about a famous actor, Liu Chen Wei (Joe Cheng) who suffers from depression. Janine Chang plays Zhang Man Ling, his long time girlfriend, with whom he’s starred in a series of dramas. To the outside, they seem like the perfect, glamorous couple, but what happens when Chen Wei’s facade starts to crack?
Episode 1 Mini (mini) Recap:
Liu Chen Wei and Zhang Man Ling are filming an alien action drama in Japan. Chen Wei is irritable and annoyed with the fanservice and poor quality of the drama. He also suffers from depression and is haunted by his insecurities.
He’s told by his manager that he’ll have to film an extended bed scene the next day, which he is unhappy with. His manager puts to blame off to Man Ling, saying that she’s already agreed to it, so there’s nothing she can do. He storms off to Man Ling’s hotel room where she complains about having to do extra filming the next day, but shrugs that it’s not so hard. He picks her up and takes her to her bed, despite her protests. He starts kissing her and undressing, and when she tells him to stop, he spits back her words to her – didn’t she say it wasn’t so hard? She cries that it’s different and he asks her how is it different? He asks her if she loves him and she doesn’t respond. He rips at her for being able to so easily act like she’s in love with him in front of the media. He leaves upset, wondering if their relationship is real or if they’re just acting that they’re in love. She catches up to him outside and hugs him, telling him that she loves him, before kissing him, but he doesn’t look convinced.
Next we see Chen Wei at a psychiatrist recounting his recurring nightmare of being naked and there being nobody in the world. It distresses him that even when there’s no one, he still tries to get dressed in his dream. The psychiatrist tells him to think of who is there for him at these times, and he thinks of a girl (who is a figment of his imagination).
At a press event that night, the press asks the natural question about if the Chen Wei and Man Ling are together. Man Ling blushes but Chen Wei arrives and says that years of acting together may make them think it’s something real, but in reality, they’re just good friends. Man Ling is heartbroken – since they have been dating for years – but Chen Wei is firm in his rejection of her.
We’re also introduced to Wu Chun Sheng (newbie Qiu Hao Qi), who is a huge fan of Man Ling. At the press event he calls Chen Wei out for unilaterally rejecting Man Ling and when he gets home, we see that he has posters of Man Ling plastered over his place. (It’s fine in the drama because he’s played so endearingly, like an overeager puppy, but in real life I feel like that’s a bit too creepy). It happens to also be his birthday, and we see that his friend (who has stuck sticky notes around his place) has prepared a cake for him.
The PD and director of the drama are naturally angry that he just dropped just a bomb on their drama. They want to bring in another actor, but Chen Wei’s manager is against it. The PD bets with Chen Wei’s manager that if he can’t successfully complete filming the next day, they’ll bring in a new actor.
The next day, when they’re filming, Chen Wei’s anger again gets the best of him (he’s enraged at the director’s flippance towards a worker he injured himself) and he once again drives off for some alone time (with the girl that is a figment of his imagination). His alone time is interrupted by a call from his lackey who tells him that he’s been nominated for an award equivalent of the Razzies.
The next morning is a big day for both Chen Wei and Chun Sheng, and we’re shown the different ways they prepare for their morning. In trying to flee from paparazzi, Chen Wei’s car runs into Chun Sheng’s motorcycle. (I’m honestly not entirely sure what everyone was preparing for in the last sequence).
To be honest, I was a bit disappointed. The drama’s good, but I’m not big about huge depressing melodramas. It’s far too dark, and I’m also disappointed with how the drama spent its money. I had heard about all the money they spent doing action/stunt scenes, and the pain of filming in the cold snow in Japan and the money they spent recreating the Golden Horse awards (biggest awards in Taiwan). But, I actually found much of it wholly unnecessary. The intro action scene (from a drama that Chen Wei and Man Ling are filming) went on for way too long, and actually added very little to the overall value of the introduction episode. I felt like they did that for flashy effect, but it could have easily been accomplished if they opted for a drama that was about lovers in a modern city life and eschewed the unnecessary action scenes. Plus the scenes shot in Japan were barely used (just as flashback), so I’m hoping they’ll come into more play later, because otherwise it’s a bit wasteful. And also, the fact that the introduction was in Japan seemed to be unnecessary as well. It could have very well been set in Taiwan and it wouldn’t have made any difference.
Since this drama had been hyped up for the scale of the production, I ultimately felt disappointed because I felt like the production was wasted / not best utilized.
Also, there were some areas that just left me puzzled. At the beginning, I wasn’t sure that the girl Chen Wei kept thinking of was a figment of his imagination. And at the end, I had no idea what everyone was preparing for. I’m hoping that now that we’ve set the scene for the characters and the soon-to-be fallout, that the plot will get more interesting. Because there only so much of Joe Cheng angsting that I can take.
Luckily, there’s plenty of things that make this drama great, like amazing shots, solid acting and solid music (although I have to say, I’m not a huge fan of the opening song). Plus I’m looking forward to when Sunny Wang’s character shows up (he does the douche-y but extremely sexy role oh so well). I’ll definitely be following along for a little bit longer, although I’m not sure if I’ll be able to stick it to the end.