Right off the bat, we know A Business Proposal will be your typical romantic comedy story. You have an ordinary girl and a handsome wealthy guy. A number of cheesy, cringe-worthy, and funny encounters make them fall in love with each other. They overcome obstacles together and eventually get a happy ending. We have all seen these elements in one-too-many rom-coms, but what is it about this series that made it earn double-digit ratings and become the top non-English show on Netflix for three weeks in a row?
The answer is simple: Romantic comedies—when done right—can be enjoyable.
That is not to say that A Business Proposal is perfect. The drama certainly has its faults. The ending is rushed and a bit underwhelming. Some characters are less fleshed out than others, probably because of the episode length. But the drama’s strengths trump its weaknesses, making A Business Proposal a feel-good and worthy watch.
Note: The following review contains spoilers.
A Business Proposal follows the success of many successful webtoon adaptations like Yumi’s Cells, All of Us are Dead, and True Beauty, just to name a few. Originally a web novel that was then adapted into a webtoon in 2018, there was much anticipation about how the love story between the rich and handsome CEO Kang Tae-mu (Ahn Hyo-seop) and regular office employee Shin Ha-ri (Kim Se-jeong) would come to drama life.
What the webtoon lacks, the drama delivers. Originally in the webtoon, Kang Tae-mu seemed to be a one-dimensional headstrong character both at work and in love. In the drama, with the addition of childhood trauma and a hilarious remark about him resembling a certain winged dinosaur, we see Tae-mu as a petty child who has little ability to understand his growing affection towards Ha-ri.
Additionally, Ha-ri is more emotionally mature than Tae-mu in the show. Growing up, Ha-ri carried the weight of her parents’ debt, leading her to develop an admirable sense of responsibility. All her hard work paid off when she landed a role as a food researcher in a major food corporation, which happens to be the company Kang Tae-mu is CEO of. When Chairman Kang, Tae-mu’s grandfather, asks Ha-ri to resign following rumors of her relationship with his grandson, Ha-ri gives an unexpected answer and lists her achievements. She also turns down Tae-mu’s invitation to join him in the United States while his grandfather undergoes treatment. There’s no denying that Ha-ri loves Tae-mu, but when it comes to her work and worth, she stands her ground.
This is the drama’s strong suit—its charming and loveable characters. The second lead couple, composed of unlikely heiress Jin Young-seo (Seol In-ah) and Tae-mu’s secretary Cha Seung-hoon (Kim Min-gyu), also have their own set of charms. Young-seo is Ha-ri’s fiery and passionate best friend, willing to defend Ha-ri at all costs. Meanwhile, Seung-hoon is logical and reserved, his guarded principles making his life priorities clearly defined. While things may have escalated quickly between them, the progression of their relationship seemed natural and their conflict relatable. When Seung-hoon lands himself in hot water with Youngseo’s cousin, Young-seo confronts him about his indecisiveness. Eventually, they patch up their relationship by recognizing their differences and encouraging each other to be honest with one another.
While the characters have their individual charms, the chemistry between the two female protagonists (Ha-ri and Young-seo) and two male protagonists (Tae-mu and Seung-hoon) is undeniable. Contrary to how strong female characters are often portrayed, Ha-ri and Young-seo are both strong on their own as well as together. Young-seo hates going on blind dates set by her father, so she asks Ha-ri to act as her substitute. Together, they go to great lengths to scare off the men and hopefully discourage them from going on a date with Young-seo. Their over-the-top comedic acting is off the charts, and the synergy between the two actresses is enough to brighten up anyone’s day. On the other hand, Tae-mu and Seung-hoon demonstrate a different kind of loyalty and respect for one another, particularly Seung-hoon who feels indebted to Tae-mu’s grandfather.
As for the directing and cinematography, the drama makes use of 2D and 3D computer graphics to make viewers feel as if they are reading the webtoon. In addition, the characters often do inner monologues to better express how they think or feel. Ha-ri, in particular, does her monologue in form of a theater in her mind.
The drama also makes use of barriers, frames, and windows as a clever depiction of the character’s feelings. In episode 7, when Tae-mu’s jealousy towards Ha-ri and Min-woo’s friendship escalates, we see Ha-ri’s barrier thinning even with the confusion and fear she feels because of Tae-mu’s advances. On both sides, we see paintings of flowers as a symbol that they both like each other. Later on, we see these barriers disappear in a certain shot from outside the window when Ha-ri comforts Tae-mu about his childhood trauma triggered whenever it rains.
A Business Proposal was off to great a start, and sustained its momentum, so it was disappointing that the ending was rushed. It would have been nice to see Young-seo and her father be on good terms, with the latter finally approving their relationship just like in the webtoon. It would have also been a touching scene to see another dialogue between Chairman Kang and Shin Ha-ri, as he could come to realize that while he enjoyed the company of Shin Geum-hui, Tae-mu’s fake girlfriend, he could also the enjoy the same with Ha-ri. And while the lengthy bed scene between Tae-mu and Ha-ri was perhaps needed to cement their relationship, it could have been shortened or made more implied in order to make room for other, more necessary scenes.
During the drama’s press conference, Kim Se-jeong expressed her hope that the show would be some form of a snack that viewers can enjoy comfortably. Week after week, A Business Proposal became something everyone anticipated, especially after Monday and Tuesday’s stressful workdays. The show’s acting and comedic timings are tasteful, and there’s a feeling of joyful satisfaction at the end of every episode because you know you had a good laugh. It’s going to be difficult to top a romantic comedy that is so refreshing. Just like how we love indulging in snacks, a well-executed rom-com will always be a welcome guilty pleasure.