The Housemaid

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The Housemaid promises to deliver the mother of all Korean catfights.  It doesn’t quite come through, but watching the four female leads as they lie, scheme, and shift loyalties makes for some ticklish good fun in director Im Sang-soo’s remake of a 1960 Korean classic.

At the heart of all this estrogen-fueled enmity is, naturally, a man.  When innocent young Eun-yi (Jeon Do-yeon) is hired as a nanny by a wealthy pregnant woman, it isn’t long before the woman’s lascivious husband (Lee Jung-Jae) is bedding the girl.  Complicating matters is an older housekeeper (Youn Yuh-jung), an embittered woman who takes an instant dislike to Eun-yi.

The illicit affair between husband and housemaid is soon uncovered, and at this point the movie gains momentum, spinning an elaborate game of cat-and-mouse between servants, the wife, and the wife’s mother.  There are shades of Hitchcock here – Rebecca and Notorious, in particular – and the proceedings are imaginatively photographed, with cameras gliding in and out of elegant sets.

Unfortunately, that hoped-for catfight doesn’t really materialize.  Instead, Sang-soo gives us a denouement that strives to be shocking but is instead melodramatic and unsatisfying.  One character is singled out for revenge, but it’s the one female in the house who’s guilty of no wrongdoing.        Grade:  B

 

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Director:  Im Sang-soo  Cast:  Jeon Do-yeon, Lee Jung-Jae,  Woo Seo, Youn Yuh-jung, Park Ji-young  Release:  2010

 

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