Review by Nathan Samdahl (B)
With The Housemaid, Korean director Im Sang-soo establishes himself as a director to watch, both in the Asian market and here in the United States. The Housemaid is a sexy, taut, slow-burner of a film that keeps the audience on edge from start to finish.
The lead Jeon Do-yeon (Eun-yi) is deceptively gorgeous and brings incredible nuance to the difficult role. She exudes confidence in parts and extreme vulnerability in others. Lee Jung-Jae (Hoon), reminiscent in some ways of Christian Bale's character in American Psycho, skillfully walks the line between likeable and detestable.
The director does great work exploring both the opposing characteristics of each role while also focusing on the differences in class in the film. I don't know a great deal about Korean culture, but it seems clear that Im Sang-soo does not think very highly of the bourgeois class, portraying the family here as callous, manipulative, even psychotic.
Despite Eun-yi willingly engaging in an affair with Hoon, she constantly remains inferior to Hoon and his family. Even the shocking finish to the film does little to turn the tables on the situation.
The first half of The Housemaid is the strongest and certainly the best constructed. The second half gets a bit muddied in its direction, particularly leading up to the finale, which almost seems out of place given its extremity. While the ending is certainly part of why the film is attracting much attention, I almost would have preferred a subtler conclusion, more in line with the slow burn present throughout the rest of the film.
Ending or not, this film has a strong voice, one which I'm sure we will hear from again soon. And while I hate to say it, while certainly auteur, this film does seem destined for an American remake given its transferable storyline and the two sexy leads.
But please, see this original film first before it gets ruined by Sarah Michelle Geller.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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