Monday, October 11, 2010

Monday Reviews: The Housemaid

Im Sang-soo's The Housemaid comes teasingly close to adequate pulp, but by around the halfway point, I lost my patience with it. It's not a bad movie so much as an overweening and frankly annoying one, which is not a critical vocabulary I really like to privilege, but there you are. I'm a little worried that this sense of annoyance hangs too heavily over the full review I'm now posting, possibly because I started the review a week ago, the day I saw The Housemaid, and am finishing it now as a way to tie off a loose end, not because it's anywhere close to the group of movies I'm feeling most eager to write about at present. Especially having just seen so many doozies. So, I'll try to get to more of those this week.

Meanwhile, if you saw more in Im Sang-soo's stylistically showy sudser than I did—a worthier, high-gloss retread of inherited material than Egoyan's Chloe was, but tacky and desperate enough, by the end, to call the comparison to mind—I hope you'll let me know in the comments.

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Blogger Sam Brooks said...

I saw this at my local festival expecting, quite frankly, an actual remake of The Housemaid and was thoroughly disappointed to see this remake in name only.

I agree with most of the points you bring up, but I find that the film was neither interested in being an 'art film' or a thriller. It never really succeeds as either.

For me, the film never gets as unnerving or immediate as that opening. Were I not better informed, I would have thought it was a short film they played before the film.

And honestly, everything from the chandelier climax onwards did nothing to endear the film to me.

I can't say after this I'm trying to round up any Im Sang-soo films I can find, either. He doesn't seem like a director, especially with all the riches that Korean cinema does have, that I should follow up on.

Great review, though! For a film that really doesn't deserve it. (And I actually didn't hate it, but was disappointed.)

6:06 PM, October 11, 2010  
Blogger NicksFlickPicks said...

I actually find this comment very reassuring, because you seem worried that you're coming on too strong with your dislike. I felt the same way by the end of the review. There is something strangely galling about this film's overstatements and erratic development.

1:07 PM, October 12, 2010  
Anonymous Jen said...

I agree, Mrs. Cho is the most interesting character who I think steals the show from the rest of the cast. I loved your analysis of her! :)

I liked the hypocrisy of Hoon's beautiful piano playing which is at odds with his hedonistic character, especially in the scene where he rebukes (almost like a slap on the wrist) his mother-in-law. Hae-ra's character exhibited the same duplicity, her beauty and pregnancy (which i associate with the images of motherhood) contrast sharply to her selfishness and dissatisfaction. However, these two characters are indeed predictable and even unrealistic; their characters don't diverge from their early impressions.

Eun-yi's motives are unconvincing - I found her insanity at the end too roughly handled, and poorly developed, at odds with how she was presented to us before.

I found ending to be especially exaggerated - although I did find Hae-ra's haunting Happy Birthday to be effective at conveying the sadness and emptiness of their lives.

I enjoyed your review very much! I actually had some questions after watching the film and wanted to put my own non-verbal impressions into words.

7:49 AM, November 03, 2010  

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