By: Henry J. Fromage (Three Beers) –
After watching the kitschy disasterpiece that was the original 1960 The Housemaid I knew I had to watch Im Sang-Soo’s Cannes-approved remake… IMMEDIATELY. A movie like the original simply can’t, or more accurately, probably shouldn’t exist today.
Sorry, it appears Misogyny: The Movie is doable in this day and age after all
This version also centers on the forbidden sexual relationship between a housemaid and her employer, but this time he’s filthy rich, with a household including a pregnant, dispassionate wife, a conniving mother-in-law, a precocious moppet, and a jaded, hateful head housekeeper.
This film has almost nothing to do with the original outside of its titular main character, and that is undoubtedly for the best. Perhaps the only thing Im Sang-Soo does keep is Kim Ki-Young’s obsession with using windows and doorways to create separations and hierarchies among his characters, and he pairs that device with a more appropriate theme- class politics and the inherent, fucked up power play that arises from the institution of domestic help.
Im creates a film that drips with style, from the opulent and cold costuming and set design to his darting, roving camerawork and plethora of tracking shots. He also uses a strong, almost cinema verité, welcome to Korean life type of opening that is a somewhat effective bookend as well.
The acting is uniformly strong, never falling into the soap operay depths of its predecessor, even as the material itself, in typical Korean film fashion, takes a sharp turn for the melodramatic. Oh, and as far as that final, mindfuck scene that so many people hate… I think it’s kind of genius. Just think of it from the little girl’s point of view.
The penultimate scene, though… oof, that was terrible. I’m glad it didn’t end there, because I would have thrown my shoe at the TV.
Thankfully I robbed that Best Buy truck a few years back…
Perhaps it’s due to some dodgy CGI or poor editing, but… (SPOILER ALERT)… why the fuck did she catch on fire? How, just how did that happen? The suicide itself is a bit much, but thematically defensible- a desperate woman taking advantage of the one measure of control she has, but fire… really?
There’s a bit of a pacing problem near the middle, annoyingly right after the pot really turns on the crazy. It felt like somebody pumped the brakes at 60 mph, and it takes a few minutes to get your bearings back after that, and for the movie to get moving again.
This remake differentiates itself from the original in all the right ways, but without that comparison bias, it’s still a sexy, beautiful shot family class struggle melodrama, with only a few missteps to watch out for.
Take a Drink: for every devious letter or phone call
Take a Drink: whenever the head maid acts bitchy
Take a Drink: for seafood
Take a Drink: when somebody else does (wine = sexy time)
Take a Drink: every time the housemaid gets snappily bossed around
Do a Shot: for B.J. the Bear