[Storyline+Review] To Be a Better Man with Sun Hong Lei and Maggie Jiang

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I have been writing a storyline/fast recap for this drama since May and neglected my assignments as a consequence… Now, I finally get the time to finish the post. Hope you like this review ^^

Cast

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  • Number of episodes: 42
  • Note: This drama came on top of drama ratings during the second half of its airing.

Review:

8.5/10 I started this drama because of Lay and Sun Honglei, thinking it would be a bromance drama with comedy and family oriented plot. Oh boy, I realized it is so much more! The drama is told from two perspectives: Lu Yuan who must find atonement and move on with his life and Peng Jiahe who must learn to be genuine about how she feels. Since my age is a lot closer to Jiahe’s, I find her side of story more poignant. Indeed, her father died, my mother abandoned her, her grandmother always sees her father’s shadow in Jiahe, and Lu Yuan continuously threaten to abandon her. It was beautiful to see her stay positive and slowly learn how to trust the people around her. Each time she cried, I wanted to cry. It also helps that Guan Xiaotong is such an amazing actress! She controls very well her expressions and it doesn’t feel fake at all (one of the pros of a non-idol drama ^^).

Lu Yuan is obviously the main character of the drama and his story is elaborated … and overly explained. I feel like if they put all the flashbacks together, one would have enough to make a second drama. No joking. Every time Lu Yuan talks to himself (and he does it so often), it is flashback time! I didn’t like how they portrayed the American head chief as a lazy rude man… since it is how ALL Asian dramas do it. Other than that, the part “life in America is difficult” is true, and if it was not overly shown, I would have loved it. Lu Yuan has a beautiful relationship with Grandma Jia and his occasional moments with Jiang Haokun are hilarious. Sun Honglei is a great actor and I am happy I picked up this project… because I finally get the chance to experience his talent 🙂 His character development from an annoying pessimist cunt to a caring and more open minded man was really fun to watch.

Maggie Jiang is stunning in this drama! I knew she was good in Go Goal Fighting, but completely change from her first persona (healthy, positive, straight forward teacher) to the one of a rich spoiled heiress. SO SO SO gorgeous. I can’t stress this enough, she is so amazing! Her laughs in despair were heartbreaking, her obsession with Lu Yuan was attaching, and her over all class in this drama are off the charts. Now, I understand why Hu Ge loved her, she has so much potential! Her character is sad and complicated, yet Maggie managed to bring her to life.

I won’t go in detail about the remaining cast, but they are all awesome, David Wang was first annoying in his insecurity and obsession, but he is caring, funny and… how can you bring yourself to hate someone like that? Che Xiao is full of class and fit the character to a T. Both actors were enjoyable and unlike other supporting characters, they were not annoying (Sun Honglei was way more annoying than them xD). Finally, I liked Lay’s performance in this drama: he is clumsy, cute, and straight like an arrow. Very similar to his real life personality so I don’t know how great of an actor he is, but he was fun to watch in action ^^.

As you can see, I am very much in love with the whole cast. The drama is twisted, complicated and attaching; however I think +/- 30 episodes would do better justice to the story. Around the middle, I got bored and the story was just repeating itself… again and again. It tells you story about letting go (cue to “Let it Go”), the importance of trust, family, and love. Overall, an enjoyable drama to feel something real and beautiful, with real characters that are neither good nor bad. It is not as funny as an idol drama, does not have all the plot twists of Zhen Huan Zhuan, or beautiful young blood to keep our eyes stick on the screen, but I spent a lovely time watching it ^^.

Full storyline [Spoiler Alert]:

Lu Yuan, portrayed by Sun Honglei, is a three star Michelin chief in the US. After a car accident, his best friend and assistant chief dies. He decides to bring the seventeen year old daughter of his friend, Peng Jiahe portrayed by Guan Xiaotong, back to China. With no where to go, he calls his ex-best friend and ultra rich CEO Jiang Haokun and gets invited to a high end party.

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To his surprise, Lu Yuan discovers Jiang Haokun is proposing to his ex-girlfriend, Gan Jing. Frustrated, Lu Yuan makes a scene and takes GJ away. She is surprised to see him again, after three years with no news. She asks, “why come back today? When you left me with no reasons? Haokun took care of me, we are together now… get over yourself!”

At the same time, Jiang Lai portrayed by Maggie Jiang, goes to Zhengzhou after her boyfriend who fled due to blackmail from Haokun, her brother. Once arrived, she discovers he committed suicide and grows hatred against her brother.

Peng Jiahe has been abandoned at a young age by her mother, now remarried, and only has a grandma left. The elder suffers from Alzheimer and welcomes the two to stay with her… confusing Lu Yuan for her own son. Now with a roof over the head but two persons under his care… LY starts looking for a job.

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Lu Yuan meets a drunk Jiang Lai at bar and befriend her. They visit the house of Jiang Haokun and start smashing everything. Realizing this is the house of JHK, LY assumes he has been cheating on Gan Jing.

Extremely mad at Haokun, he decides to make a man out of himself and courts Gan Jing again. At the same time, JHK notices Gan Jing is emotionally shaken by the reappearance of Lu Yuan. He secretly set up a plan to make Lu Yuan the head chief at his five star restaurant. Gan Jing discovers the truth but doesn’t tell Lu Yuan… afraid of hurting him.

Flashbacks of Lu Yuan back in US: at that time, he was a patato peeler at the back of a fancy restaurant and Gan Jing a student in architecture. Their life was extremely hard and both didn’t speak English. Lu Yuan befriended the father of Jiahe at the restaurant. When the economical crash arrived, Lu Yuan decided to accept a dangerous work: hustle some illegal passports for the mafia (lol, I love how they didn’t use the word drugs :P). He is caught and put in prison. Afraid of ruining Gan Jing’s future, he decided to keep all of this a secret. Two years later, he gets out. At his new work, he accidentally sets fire to the restaurant and loses his ability to taste. This ends his career as a chief and all possibility of going after Gan Jing.

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Back to the present time! At the restaurant, he hires a new team of sous-chef with a resume as weird as his (street food vendor, ex-head chief of Italian restaurant, etc). However, he still needs someone to secretly taste the food for him… introducing Little Cai portrayed by Zhang Yixing! Due to his adoration for Lu Yuan, Jiahe decides to tell little Cai LY’s secret and makes him the food taster. The boy eagerly accepts, happy to work with his idol. At the same time, he develops a crush on Jiahe, who like him, doesn’t have her parents nearby.

Now with a decent job and a good pay, Lu Yuan decides it is time to bring Grandma Jia to an elder house. The old woman accepts sadly. After an unfortunate event, Jiahe and Lu Yuan decide grandma should live at home, under the stricter supervision of Jiahe.

Jiang Lai starts to realize Lu Yuan is none other than the ex of Gan Jing. She sets up a meal with her family and Gan Jing catered by Lu Yuan. Acting as a “bitch”, she reveals the whole bitter truth, surprising everyone. Unwilling to see Gan Jing suffer like this again, JHK tells her the truth about the ex-boyfriend.

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The guy is a male black widow, going after rich girls and their money. Jiang Haokun threaten to bring him to court (“I have evidence of what you did before!”) if he does not break up. He also gives him shares of a new real estate project to settle the deal… knowing the deal is bound to lose money. The guy committed suicide as a consequence of all the debts. Jiang Haokun didn’t tell Lai the truth because he is afraid she will be sad and since he caused the guy to die, he wants to be punished.  Hearing this, Jiang Lai is extremely sad and depressed. She finds comfort in Lu Yuan.

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Jiahe needs pocket money and decides to work for Gan Jing. She plots a way to pair Gan Jing and Lu Yuan. Much to the discontent of Haokun and Jiang Lai xD

Lu Yuan quits from the restaurant, thinking it was because of conflict of interest that he got hired (not completely wrong). He realized Jiang Lai was not cheating with Haokun and re-evaluates his life (cue to more flashbacks and ton of filler moments). Jiang Lai tries to talk to him and force Lu Yuan to stay at the restaurant. She also apologizes to her brother and they are able to rekindle their relationship.

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Lu Yuan refuses to date Jiang Lai… but goes on a blind date with Gan Jing’s friend, a psychologist. She is interested in him (both emotionally and professionally) and one day, Lu Yuan decided to confess the whole truth to her.

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At the same time, Gan Jing and Haokun decide to go forward with the marriage. He wants a fancy beautiful wedding a la Huang Xiaoming x Angelababy, she just nods along. They seems to be in a cold fight (clearly not the way to go before a wedding). At their engagement night, an important client is been disrespectful to Gan Jing (calling her a money digger and slut ><) and Haokun hits him. HK confesses he is a direct and calculated man, but each time something involves Gan Jing, he can’t help but been hopeless and hot blood. He loves her that much (awwn).

After eating too many sleeping pills, Lu Yuan faints and is brought to the hospital. Everyone think he attempted suicide and he just plays along, happy so many people care about him (poor Jiahe! ><) Jiang Lai in particular takes care of him.

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Lu Yuan gives blessings for Gan Jing’s marriage. In addition, GJ learns the truth about the past from her friend the psychologist and finally find closure. Since everything is going smoothly, Lu Yuan considers leaving Shanghai for good after Jiahe turns 18th. This breaks Jiahe’s heart and she plots with Jiang Lai to keep him. They succeed and Lu Yuan admits having feelings for Jiang Lai.

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As Grandma Jia’s health worsen, he and Jiang Lai decides to take her on a vacation to the US, where her son and his story began. [The End]

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6 thoughts on “[Storyline+Review] To Be a Better Man with Sun Hong Lei and Maggie Jiang

  1. Awesome recap that explained everything! 8D Loving this. I watched a few scenes here and there, but know I can actually understand what happened until the end. Sun Honglei is a great actor. Thanks to his recent popularity (keuf Go Fighting) and his talent, this drama was a real hit while it was broadcast. Guan Xiaotong is amazing too and I am sure she will get more and more popular as time goes. I can’t talk too much about the drama since I didn’t watch it, but the cast are all people that I like too ❤ It is nice to see a non idol drama getting good ratings from time to time ^o^

    Liked by 1 person

    • intellectualkitten says:

      Yeahhh ^^ You read everything (right? ><) Sun Honglei was good in this drama, but I believe Guan Xiaotong and Maggie Jiang both gave a more memorable performance 😀 Me too, this drama created a buzz online too

      Like

  2. sox says:

    There are a lot of great actors in the series, but I wasn’t able to watch until the end. I like most of the actors a lot (I didn’t see much of Lay, don’t like Dave W as much), but I don’t like the story and characters enough to keep watching :- ( It was cheaper to film in Genoa Italy than to film their US scenes in the US?

    Like

    • intellectualkitten says:

      Lay only appeared after episode 11 and his role is very minor (unlike what the promotiong wanted us to believe :P). Dave Wang is the typical abusive and obsessive bf at first, but his character slowly grew on me and he became more caring.
      Humm… I agree with you, Sun Honglei’s acting was okay but not addictive and I skipped a lot of the time skip moments. However, it is a good drama to watch till the end, has a nice feeling to it
      XD they were going full out for the mafia and back kitchen concept 😛

      Like

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