March 26, 2011

My Friend and His Wife: Never Sell the Truth Short

And now, a few words about the workaholic at the center of My Friend and His Wife... If there's a more blistering portrait of the self-centered businessman (Jang Hyeong-seong) who takes responsibility for little else than financial profit, none comes immediately to mind. Shin Dong-il's dour domestic drama is a heart-stopping look at how one well-dressed heel's me-first money-making mentality inevitably stomps out the inner lives of everyone who tries to get close to him; in this case, the foolhardy offenders are a cook (Park Hee-soon) and his beautician wife (Hong So-hee). At different points in the movie, both halves of this almost-happy couple have fallen painfully in love with the careerist-capitalist because he seems to promise a better future and a stronger sense of themselves. He loves them too in return — something he shows with increasing dividends — but he's habitually unable to emotionally invest in either relationship. No level of intimacy is more valued than a phone call from the boss; no date can't be canceled once hedge funds go in flux. Because of that, both parties get psychically shortchanged, even as their bank accounts thrive. The husband goes to prison then gets released to find himself the owner of a questionably self-sustaining eatery for fried chicken; the wife loses her baby but eventually helms a high-end hair salon. Neither is near contentment when the riches start pouring in. Which finally prompts them to re-evaluate their feelings for the sharpest point of their costly love triangle. And while they realize something interesting in the process, the biggest lesson is reserved for the biggest offender: A moral debt is the hardest to pay off. Sometimes, it's almost impossible.

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