February 5, 2011

The Housemaid: A Camp Classic Gets Reinvented for the Better

I'm not a big fan of the original version of The Housemaid, Kim Ki-young's 1960 camp melodrama about a psycho servant usurping control in a middle-class household. Im Sang-soo's update, which shows a richer family's new nanny getting abused instead of abusing, seems infinitely more plausible, and for the first half of the film, Jeon Do-yeon gives such a transfixing performance as a good-natured naif willing to roll with the punches, that you'll be feeling as though you're watching a purported classic being transformed into an actual one. But then the story kind of plateaus. Jeon, who's done such a heartbreaking job at conveying a variety of vulnerabilities, doesn't relate the same level of intensity when she's realizing how she's getting the short end of the stick or devising her revenge. The movie doesn't tank, exactly, but it does go from being great to good. At one point, I wondered if the story was going to shift to the other, older housemaid (Yun Yeo-jong) who has more than enough bitter memories to incite a glorious revenge on the narcissistic woman-of-the-house (Seo Woo) or her bj-loving husband (Lee Jung-jae). No such luck.

1 comment:

  1. i also thought it was cool that it was not really clear which housemaid the title referred to, but then i figured at the end, it was the one on fire swinging from the chandelier.