The Housemaid

(2010)

Genres: Thriller

Review: The Housemaid

Transcript for Review: The Housemaid

IGNATIY VISHNEVETSKY:
THOSE ARE SOME SCENES FROM OUR NEXT MOVIE, "THE HOUSEMAID," A SOUTH KOREAN FILM WHICH PLAYED IN COMPETITION AT LAST YEAR'S CANNES FILM FESTIVAL.  AT THE CENTER OF IT’S PLOT, IS A YOUNG WOMAN WHO TAKES A JOB AS A LIVE-IN MAID AND NANNY IN THE EXPENSIVELY DECORATED MANSION OF A VERY WEALTHY COUPLE.

THE WIFE IS ABOUT TO GIVE BIRTH TO TWINSSHE TAKES CARE OF TWINS, AND THE HUSBAND SPENDS MOST OF HIS FREE TIME PLAYING PIANO AND GETTING DRUNK ON VERY EXPENSIVE WINE.

CLIP FROM “THE HOUSEMAID”

IGNATIY:
THE HUSBAND AND THE MAID BEGIN AN AFFAIR AND SHE GETS PREGNANT.

CLIP FROM “THE HOUSEMAID”

IGNATIY:

THE WIFE AND HER MOTHER BEGIN TRYING TO FORCE THE MAID TO HAVE AN ABORTION, WITH TACTICS RANGING FROM BRIBERY TO INTIMIDATION TO VIOLENCE.

CLIP FROM “THE HOUSEMAID”
[SCREAMS]
[SCREAMING]
[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE]

IGNATIY:
"THE HOUSEMAID" HAS MANY GOOD THINGS GOING FOR IT, A UNIFORMLY EXCELLENT CAST, AND IT’S COSTUMING AND ART DIRECTION ARE NOT ONLY IMPECABLE, BUT SERVE AS AN OBJECT LESSON IN HOW FURNITURE AND DETAILS CAN SET THE TONE FOR A FILM.  HOWEVER, THE PERFORMANCES AND FETISHISTICT PRODUCTION DESIGN DON'T COME TOGETHER TO MAKE A SUBSTANTIAL WHOLE.

THIS BLEAK MELODRAMA SPENDS A LOT OF TIME SIMMERING, BUT IT NEVER COMES TO AN EMOTIONAL BOIL.

AND THE ENDING, WHICH SEEMS INTENDED AS AN ACCUSATION AGAINST THE UPPER CLASS, FEELS MORE LIKE A COPOUT.

CHRISTY:
I LIKED THIS FOR A LONG TIME, AND I HATE MYSELF FOR LIKING IT, BECAUSE IT'S JUST SOAPY AND DISHY AND IT’S SO OVER THE TOP.

IT HAS ITS ROOTS, I THINK, IN VERY SERIOUS, LIKE, SHAKESPEAREAN TRAGEDY, AND PALACE INTRIGUE, AND UPSTAIRS/DOWNSTAIRS, KIND OF, OVERHEARING AND EAVESDROPPING AND MANIPULATIONS, BUT A LOT OF TIMES I FEEL KIND OF LIKE "REAL HOUSEWIVES OF SOUTH KOREA."

HAVING SAID THAT, I WAS KIND OF INTO IT.  IT'S A GUILTY PLEASURE, IT'S EXQUISITELY PHOTOGRAPHED GUILTY PLEASURE, AND I LIKE THE FACT THAT THE PRECISION OF PHOTOGRAPHY AND ALL THE DETAILS, ALL THE FURNITURE, ALL THE INTERIORS ARE A SHARP CONTRAST WITH JUST HOW ABOMINABLE THESE PEOPLE ARE TO EACH OTHER. IT'S KIND OF FUN.

IGNATIY:
I'M NOT SO SURE IT'S KIND OF FUN.

CHRISTY:
NO?

IGNATIY:
HERE IS MY PROBLEM WITH THE FILM.

CHRISTY:
OKAY.

IGNATIY:
I HAVE TO ADMIT THAT I KIND OF HAVE A PROBLEM WITH MOST OF THE FILMS OF THE DIRECTOR, IM SANG-SOO, ESPECIALLY THIS ONE AND THE FILM HE MADE FROM 2005 CALLED "THE PRESIDENT'S LAST BANG". AND THE PROBLEM IS THAT HE SORT OF CAN'T TELL THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN INTRODUCING A SUBJECT AND ENGAGING WITH IT.

AND I FEEL LIKE THIS ENTIRE FILM IS ALMOST A BUILDUP FOR A CRITIQUE OF, YOU KNOW, THE WAY THIS UPPER CLASS EXPLOITS THE MAID, BUT THEN IT NEVER ACTUALLY BECOMES THAT CRITIQUE.

AND THIS IS A REMAKE OF A FILM FROM 1960 BY KIM KI-YOUNG, WHO’S KIND OF A CULT FIGURE IN SOUTH KOREAN CINEMA, BUT I FEEL LIKE A MUCH BETTER POINT OF COMPARISON FOR WHY THIS DOESN'T QUITE WORK ARE THE FILMS OF THE LATE, GREAT CLAUDE CHABROL, AND I FEEL WHEN CHABROL CRITICIZES THE UPPER CLASS, HE DOES IT WITH A SUBTLE VICIOUSNESS, WHEREAS I FEEL THIS MOVIE IS KIND OF TOOTHLESS.

CHRISTY:
AND THE ENDING IS A TOTAL COPOUT.  THE ENDING IS COMPLETELY OVER THE TOP, BUT FOR A WHILE, THOUGH, IT DID HAVE ME.