In a way quite brilliant but then again... boring. They are just running in a small circle.
I feel that's one of the beauties of the story. The four are in a kind of purgatory, slowly suffering insane over their inertia. And the person who actually prevents the story from resolution isn't Soo Jung, but In Wook, because In Wook is the only person who will not abide by the rules of their mutual prison.
I wish they would have told about Jae Min's background more. How did he become like that? Yes, he is selfish, spoiled, rich brat but more than that he is just broken. He doesn't know what's happiness. He doesn't know how to live. What's right what's wrong? Sometimes I feel like he isn't capable of rational thinking at all and he is throwing tantrums every day.
I think with how the story is concieved, the actual background history of each character is not important (and that includes Soo Jung -- yes, she has a painful past but her childhood is a red herring into her character), so much as the four characters represent 4 different aspects of "the rules of engagement", or more generally their local society.
In that sense, Bali isn't meant to be a realistic story. It is as much a fairy tale as Thousand Years of Love, or Wish Upon A Star, two other pieces written by the same writer. Except that THIS one is a black, black comedy, where the Cinderella/Prince Charming narrative is inverted (so that Cinderella is the most selfish of the sisters, and Prince Charming is a monster) as to pull back the curtains and reveal the materialist machinery that powers these dramas.
Jae Min is a satirical character. More specifically, he is the proverbial Fool/Joker -- he has desires, he has emotions, he has thoughts, but all these parts merely illuminate vices and a caricature of his society; eveything he does is reactive and at the whim of his society. Maybe he loves Soo Jung, but he is concieved without a soul.
Originally, when they were concieving this character, they wanted to show a ironic morality tale where a "the rich spoiled prince" becomes half obsessed, half truly in love with the poor Cinderella character. He was meant to be much, much older (significantly older than his rival In Wook); this is especially notable because it would have been unlikely that an older Jae Min could have been characterized with the same adolescent pangs and thwarted confusion. It would have been colder, more self-aware of both his power and impotence toward his social status (and more difficult to actually root for Jae Min against In Wook.) We the viewers would be more biased against a more assured, more manipulative, older presence, instead of the very adolescent Jae Min that we were given.
Part of the brilliance of Jo In Sung's performance here is that he moves way, way past "selfish", "self-asborbed" qualifications for Jae Min, and instead gives us the Fool without pity. On one hand, yes, we feel bad for (or are impressed with) In Sung's depiction of Jae Min's tortured feelings. But its the sheer shrillness of his depiction, the unbored childlike and almost unnerved intensity of it, that reinvents the "bad prince" Jae Min as a total caricature. A sad clown, a absolutely absurd man wailing over not the depth of his love, but at his simple incomprehension of it, of everything. He doesn't get it, because everything in his psyche are things to be posessed, objects to be desired. Empathy and genuine compassion? Emotions other than desire, jealousy and revenge? That people are human beings before they are of class? He doesn't even understand what that means. And In Sung plays him like the impotent vampire that he is.
Another way to say it is that Jae Min does not have relationships with people, because everybody in his world are related to him are a title, social class, and above all an association with his money. And Jae Min doesn't really understand humanity without this; it is self-evident to him that, no matter how much he may love or covet Soo Jung, she is beneath
him. Even if he threw away for her, still in his eyes, it is a means to "have her", and at best he would expect her to be servile to him. He is her master; she is the object of his affection; his tortured anxiety is his inability to substantiate this desire and does not really include a separate appraisal of her as a human being.
That may not sound like he loves her, but within the rules of this story, he does. It is just that, in most love stories, the male character becomes more than of himself. Here, he doesn't really achieve this. Whether he loves her, this is how
he loves her -- a mistress, a poor girl, a sexual partner, a business partner, a unfortunate life, a thing to be pitied and to be desired. No matter how he feels, it is just impossible for him to escape his materialism (i.e. the world he lives.) And it is that inability, a very, very literal connection between human beings and material objects, that informs the story's satirical edge. Nobody in real life is this literal. And thank God, once a real emotion with real human depth came into their hearts, the lack of a real soul would drive them into insanity.
And it is impossible for Soo Jung to escape hers. Love is not acceptable in Jae Min's world; and love is not acceptable in Soo Jung's world.
In Wook is well composed person. He is intelligent and uses his brain often. He can hold his temper and he is capable of expressing his feelings. Still, isn't his life boring? He just works or hangs alone in his apartmen. Has no freinds, no hobbies. Such a sad person.
Within the designs of this story, everyone and everything and every feeling and every meaning are all expressed within the grammar of money. This includes In Wook's mom and Soo Jung's best friend. Every one, except In Wook.
So In Wook is not merely the principal love rival, but The Outsider character of this story. Because he has a genuine conscience, because his identity is not associated with his job (which he emphasizes to Soo Jung, that what he does at work is separate from his hatred toward Jae Min or what he really wants for his own future), he is also the anarchist in this story and the threat to everybody's "happiness."
His loneliness is reinforced with his relations to Young-joo. On one hand, he acknowledges that she loves him and he probably loved her too. However, he also understands that she can never see him as an equal partner, let alone a human being that cannot be bought like a pet. What he most begrudges isn't her breaking up with him, but her class patronization, because she (like every other character) cannot think outside of social status. Even when she leaves Jae Min, even when she many times over expressed her geniune love for him, he pushes her away because her thinking towards him is still part of the system that he hates. At the end of the day, he cannot be more than a pet to her, and they cannot transcend the relationship of generous patron and "cabin boy" no matter how she feels about him. She can't conceive anything but.
Given the above, given that even the people closest to him can only substantiate their feelings and relations through money, In Wook is also alone. He is the existentialist of the story, a man with a moral, rational conscience, and therefore dangerous to the status quo. He is actually the "bad guy" in the story. And his relationship with Soo Jung is his own struggle against what he already knows, that she too is part of Them. The only "right" choice to make was to accept Young-joo's preposition. He "belongs" with her, just as Soo Jung belongs with Jae Min.
She was miserable but at the same time hateful. Did she smile even once after she came back from Bali?
I think the underlying message in this story is that, in a world where even the most intimate, complex and sacred of human feelings are understood as money, there is no such thing as real happiness. The Cinderella story tells us the opposite: that if you met the Prince (i.e. rich) who loved you, you will have happiness and your life will be free. Here, to accept Jae Min would have been to accept -- at the very best -- a mistress relationship, perhaps hot on passion, but without future or social acceptance. He would buy her pretty things, and they would have sex in their secret little room. The room would be her prison, and she would have become a well-fed canary. Is that happiness for either Soo Jung or Jae Min?
And yet by the same foundation, she could not be happy with In Wook. In Wook wanted her to be an equal, wanted her to be responsible for her choices (i.e. why it's important not to get wrapped up by her backstory <-- In Wook's argument is that, regardless of what you came from, you are still responsible and you still have free will and conscience to make choices) In Wook wanted to have a normal, thoughtful, conventional relationship with Soo Jung, where they could share not things, but experiences and hopes and all that other normal stuff. Unfortunately, Soo Jung never wanted these things. When I saw that Soo Jung could not find happiness, I am also saying that she was almost incapable of happiness, because -- as much as In Wook knew so and hated to admit to himself-- she was the po' faceced other side of the Young-Joo and Jae Min coin.
If you watched So Ji Sup's performance from that standpoint, his reactions make absolute sense. He genuinely loved Soo Jung for who she is, but he also saw her for who she was, and she knew that, however her heart moved, she couldn't be happy with a relationship with him. He, for the most part, does not try to take her away from Jae Min, because from his (normal person) viewpoint, only she is responsible for her heart. Nobody else in this story (even Soo Jung) pretends to be responsible for their own actions. They want to substantiate all of their desires through others; In Wook plays along too, but only to the extent of his job. And at the end of the story, he realizes that this life really wasn't meant for him. No matter what his mother wanted, he is not his status, and he has accepted that. And he tried to accept that she could not be like him. She wanted money; she wanted social status; she wanted The Fairy Tale -- a Prince to come in her life and literally take her and become her master and her most prized object in his Kingdom. Even Soo Jung found this morally disgusting; to finally realize that she was this shallow, this easily satiated, ultimately this empty, that her heart was ultimately won over by money than basic decency . . .
I don't get the screenwriter at all. Why did he make it so melodramatic?! This drama is so angsty that it's sick. If I were any of the cracaters I would go for the suicide. I understand that this drama wants to show unhappy things that happen in life but... what kind of life is that miserable?! It seems like after Soo Jung came back from Bali she haven't experienced anything happy, In Wook either. She constantly keeps saying how happy she was in Bali. Why not go back there?!
And, see, she can never go really back. Even if she goes back, she -- in wanting to taste the fruit -- left Paradise forever. In Wook too.
What were the memories of Bali? Happiness.