November 8, 2016

Viva! Love: Harold and Maudlin

I did not need to see Oh Joum-Kyun's Viva! Love. Not this week. Not this year. This "feel-heavy" dramedy about a middle-aged woman (Kim Hae-suk) who finds new meaning — or is it old meaning? — in life after she gets accidentally impregnated by the drunk drycleaning boyfriend (Kim Young-min) of her career-chasing daughter (Kim Hye-na) is infused with a desperation that no amount of chocolate candy or honey-flavored beverages can remedy. No, this expectant mother is not joyous about life and love. Most of the film, she comes across as decidedly depressed, an unfulfilled hausfrau who busies herself by preparing snap-top containers of lunch or hanging up wet laundry to dry. Her rule-breaking romance kicks off in a distastefully gross manner: She carries her soon-to-be lover's passed out body home to the room he rents from her then plays with his vomit-covered lips with her finger. Their inevitable courtship is childlike at best: She's either coyly eating ice cream from a cone or taking care of him like a parent. As to those bicycle rides he offers, they should be an invitation back to lost youth but the way she accepts them is more indicative of a self-conscious grandparent worried about breaking her hip.

The problem here isn't that love and sex can't cross generations so much as this particular woman never stops playing mom while her young man just seems starved for attention. What she's looking to rediscover isn't romance so much as motherhood. Now she's got two additional children: her tenant and the baby on the way. That gag Oh introduces suggesting the sound of her orgasming sends her economically-challenged neighbors into sexual overdrive is either an AARP fairy tale or an Ensure-induced food coma that wasn't clearly framed in the edit. What does feel real is the acceptance of this third wheel by the once-cheating husband (Gi Ju-bong). When you get older, convention seems like a crock. The man of the house hasn't slept with the lady of the house in some time. As long as she's still helping out at the karaoke bar, why not let her recreate and procreate in her free time?

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