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MOVIE REVIEW: The Housemaid

South Korea cinema remake starring Do-yeon Jeon, Jung-Jae Lee

  • Jeon Do-Youn as Eun-Yi in ``The Housemaid.''
  • (L-R) Jeon Do-Youn as Eun-Yi and Ahn Seo-hyeon as Nami in ``The Housemaid.''
  • (L-R) Mi-Hee and Seo Woo as Hae-Ra in ``The Housemaid.''
  • The Housemaid
  • Lee Jung-Jae as Hoon in ''The Housemaid.''
  • Youn Yuh-Jung as Byung-Sik in ``The Housemaid.''
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There’s always debate about movies that are remakes, if they really needed to remake Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory when the original still holds up. When I spoke to Roger Ebert once about films, he stated: “Why remake movies that were good the first time? They should go and remake the movies that were bad, and try to get them right the second time.” Since The Housemaid is a remake of a 1960 movie that most people aren’t familiar with, a remake makes a little more sense. The problem lies in the fact that these themes probably worked better in 1960 than now.

The story is about a young woman hired as a housemaid, whose main job is taking care of the small daughter. Scratch that. Her job actually seems to be more about taking care of that father. He starts an affair with the maid, and in most reviews about this movie, things are given away that shouldn’t be, about what happens with that relationship.

Their first few meetings were powerful (his introducing himself to her, and him coming on to her), but felt the second of those could’ve been done better. In this day and age, I don’t see a man – no matter how often he’s used to getting what he wants – coming on so strongly to her. What happens if the woman screams? What happens if she sets up hidden cameras, or goes to the authorities and claims sexual harassment or rape? In 1960, this would’ve been a more powerful dilemma to have facing a poor woman working for a rich family, and accusations could be your word against the word of a rich, outstanding member of society.

This is a Korean film, and it’s a shame that subtitles turn off some folks. It’s very stylish, and suspenseful at times.

The cast holds the sometimes weak material together, and even the house, a mansion, becomes an interesting character. I liked the huge bunker on the beach in The Ghost Writer last year, and this house – which is helped nicely by how well it’s photographed – almost seems to have ghosts of maids past, lurking around each corner.

There’s an old maid working at the estate, and seems to know everything that goes on in the house, and all the past secrets. The fact that her character grapples with certain issues makes her more than the one-dimensional character this could’ve easily become.

The movie is a tad passé, and can get heavy-handed at times.There are some graphic sex scenes that are hard to find sexy when they border on being abusive and manipulative situations. As I left the theatre, I said to a woman walking out nearby “All things considered, they weren’t such bad people.” There was silence as she looked like she wanted to kill me. When I started laughing, she smiled and said “I thought you were serious.” She added, “I just wish they were more interesting people.” That’s one complaint that isn’t valid when it comes to this movie.

I’m giving it a B-.The Housemaid opens this weekend at the Hillcrest Landmark.