TIFF 2010: THE HOUSEMAID Review

Founder and Editor; Toronto, Canada (@AnarchistTodd)
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TIFF 2010: THE HOUSEMAID Review
Slick, polished and sexy, Im Sangsoo's The Housemaid is the sort of film simply not made in Hollywood any more. Directed with the same icy precision displayed by the coldly amoral family at its center, The Housemaid is an entirely grown-up thriller - one driven by lust, boredom, and not particularly subtle manipulation. And the general feeling on the street is that it's also the best film to screen in Cannes so far.

A remake of a 1960 classic, The Housemaid revolves around Lee Euny. A lower class, sweetly naive divorcee, Lee begins the film working in the kitchen of a cheap restaurant and sharing a tiny apartment with her only friend. Is it any wonder that she jumps at the opportunity to become the new nanny for the enormously wealthy Hoon family? If nothing else, she'll no longer have to share a bed with her friend.

The Hoon's are outwardly perfect. He is handsome and successful, a true power broker despite his youth. She is young and beautiful and heavily pregnant with twins, new siblings for the couple's young daughter. The daughter? Obviously very intelligent and mature beyond her years in truly adorable fashion. But you know what they say about perfection ... give it a scratch and who knows what may lie beneath.

In short, what lies beneath here is Mr Hoon's penis. Despite his smooth manners, the man has the sense of entitlement that comes from having been raised in extreme wealth, with everything he has ever wanted handed to him on a platter by a servant. Literally. Add to that an absolute lack of morals and is it any surprise that when his pregnant wife is unable to finish sex the way he likes Hoon soon finds his way into Lee's bed? And whether through naivite, loneliness or an equivalent lack of scruples, Lee welcomes him there. This, of course, does not end well and the women of the family prove to be far more vicious and uncaring than even Hoon himself.

Impeccably crafted and beautifully photographed, Im has created her a true piece of cinema, a work of art buffed and polished in all the right ways while still retaining a very true sense of character and balancing all of that out with just the appropriate dash of entertainer's showmanship. The script is very good, indeed, and the entire cast virtually flawless, though Park Ji-Young deserves special mention for the coldly brutal grace with which she imbues her performance as Hoon's vengeful mother in law.

Elegant when called for, savage once you dip beneath the surface, The Housemaid is a triumph for Im and one of the strongest thrillers to emerge from Korea in the past several years.
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More about The Housemaid

sitenoiseMay 15, 2010 11:12 PM

My only concern here is Lee Jung-Jae. He has seriously hurt at least a couple films trying to play studly. He's a much better nerdy wimp.

JubeiMay 16, 2010 3:14 AM

I really wanna see this one. The trailer looked promising.

Charles WebbMay 16, 2010 1:35 PM

By many accounts it sounds good. Thanks for the review, Todd!

Kurt HalfyardMay 16, 2010 7:23 PM

Yay!

Todd BrownMay 16, 2010 9:27 PM

Lee's great in this. Whole cast is, really.

justinslotMay 18, 2010 2:17 PM

This movie is getting some seriously divided opinion. Darcy Paquet didn't like it at all. Maybe it depends on how much you have invested in the original?

EricMay 18, 2010 8:37 PM

do you have the link to darcy's review?

justin.slotmanMay 19, 2010 6:12 PM

No formal review but he gets into it in his twitter:

http://twitter.com/darcypaquet

Soo JinMay 28, 2010 2:44 PM

hi would you mind explaining to me the meaning of the ending? or maybe your own interpretation of it? am i right that the whole movie was just a fiction being read by Mr. Hoon? i'm kind of confused. thank you

Todd BrownMay 28, 2010 5:00 PM

No, I would say the story was definitely NOT a fiction. It really happened. My take on the ending is that the one hope through the film was that the child would break from the family and recognize that they way they were behaving was horrible. The ending says to me that nobody has learned anything at all from the experience and if anything all of them - including the child - have become even more decadent. They are completely amoral and live this way simply because they can.