Friday, March 18, 2011

The Housemaid (Hanyo) (2010)

Im Sang-soo knows how to compose a shot and track forwards or backwards. He's truly talented with that. He's not so good, though, at sustaining any sort of interest, as "The Housemaid," his remake of a film made just over 40 years ago, is irritatingly dull in its slow crawl from scene to scene. I'm fine with slow movies, but there's scarcely a point for this movie to be one, and thus it is very boring. It's supposed to be "provocative," or something (that's what the ads and critics have been saying), but I'm pretty sure the only provoking that'll be happening will be the pinching administered to your arm to keep yourself awake.

I love unbelievable cinematography as much as the next man. More so, probably. But there are also some things that are more important than having your film look good. For example, it doesn't help much when you don't have ANY characters that you can relate to in the slightest. The main character in this film (played by Do-yeon Jeon) finds out information way after we do, and thus cannot really hold our attention. She's a maid who after a little while at her post starts being basically forced (via red wine) into having sex with the father of the family. It shouldn't be too much of a SPOILER, but she gets pregnant. The film would possibly be effective if it let us catch on to this as she did, but due to the film's objective POV (which attempts to pick up on all of the action in this household), we have already processed this information for quite some time before it comes as a revelation to her. A film similar in premise is Roman Polanski's "The Ghost Writer," which achieves wonders by putting the audience and the main character on the same level.

Back to the plot. The wife of course is pissed off when she finds out, when her (annoying) mother tells her because the experienced maid in the house informed on the main character. This makes little to sense as a plot device, as the experienced maid seems to be the only character that we have a chance at relating to. Then again, she basically tossed out all of her credibility as a believable character when flailed around in a random drunken rage. That leaves just about no one (except for the girl of the family, who's only a secondary character), unless you're about to sympathize with a lecherous man or petty grandmother. Me neither. Maybe I just knew too much coming in, or something, but this film didn't really connect with me. I wouldn't really risk taking the chance of it not connecting with you, either.

The film develops and develops, until it doesn't really matter what happens. We don't care about the characters, and thus we don't care about what they do. Simple as that. I wish I had spent my evening in a much different way than waiting it out through 106 minutes of unimaginative cinema like "The Housemaid." The camerawork is something to behold, but all the same, that can't be the only thing that's good about a movie. It's like eating a pie crust without filling inside it. C-


moviebuff15 said...

I dislike hateful characters (have you seen "Hard Candy?") but characters who beg for sympathy are rather irritating too. I generally like characters very flawed. I guess in most cases cinematography can't make a movie. And the thing with the wine... eew!

Nick Duval said...

Haven't seen HARD CANDY, though have been very intrigued by it. I like flawed characters a whole lot too, but these characters are flawed in pretty boring ways.

Anonymous said...

Nick, have you seen the original film? From your review, it sounds very different from the remake, and while the ending is silly, it's a damn good film.

You can see it for free on, if you sign up (which is also free). Here's the link:

Nick Duval said...

I haven't seen the original, and I've been meaning to check it out on MUBI for a while. I will at some point soon, as I know many, including Scorsese, have proclaimed it a masterwork. Thanks for the link.