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Movies Review

Cannes 2010: 'The Housemaid'

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The Housemaid
Released on Thursday, May 13 2010

Back in 2008 and with the backing of Martin Scorsese, Cannes welcomed a special presentation of a digitally restored print of Kim Ki-young's original 1960 movie The Housemaid. Hailed as a masterpiece of its type, the tale of a new servant entering and unsettling a family home reportedly inspired countless Korean directors and others around the world. Unfortunately, it's pretty hard to imagine that this remake from Im Sang-soo will have even a smidgen of that impact.

A pretty young woman Eun-yi (Jeon Do-youn) joins a well-to-do household as their new live-in nanny. The woman of the house Hae-ra (Seo Woo) is pregnant with twins and as large as a house. Her husband Hoon (Lee Jung-jae) was born with a full set of silver spoons in every orifice. Both treat Eun-yi and older hired help Byung-sik (Youn Yuh-jung) as little more than slaves and surrogate parents for their daughter. With very little surprise and a disappointingly brief build-up, Eun-yi and Hoon soon embark on an affair. Things briskly unravel, before all hell breaks loose in the final reels.

Along the way, there's the odd moment of charm and sensuality (though not when Hoon urges Eun-yi to "Suck it like a straw"), but with the honourable exception of a film-saving Byung-sik, the characters are too unpleasant and two-dimensional to keep it together. A film that should be all about suspense just trundles along, chucking in tenuous plot points without ever really earning the right to. The absurd finale is less the explosion of a ticking timebomb hoped for by the director and more a "really?" moment leaving you smirking rather than gasping.



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