Customer Reviews: The Housemaid (English Subtitled)
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The notorious 1960 Korean film "The Housemaid" by Kim Ki-young shocked contemporary audiences with its suspenseful descent into depravity and madness. Taking on a classic (even a cult classic) can be a daunting task. 2010's remake of the same name by Im Sang-soo maintains the same principle characters and much of the plotting, and is able to be much more graphic in nature. But despite the added nudity and sexuality--the film somehow seems much more subdued. In fact, I'll issue a cautionary warning. Billed as a thriller, "The Housemaid" really plays as a slow-burn domestic drama. Still and quiet, anyone expecting edge-of-your-seat excitement will likely be mystified by the thriller descriptive. That's not to say that there isn't much to recommend this version--I just missed some of the wildness of its predecessor. More inspired by than an actual remake, this is a glossy and dignified soap opera that maintains a surprising calm amidst increasingly melodramatic plot points.

Jeon Do-yeon (a captivating perfromer who won Cannes' Best Actress prize for 2007's Secret Sunshine) plays the titular lead. Enlisted as a maid and nanny for a wealthy family, she is soon exchanging flirtations with the family patriarch. Although irresistibly sweet and alluring (probably too much so), she makes some consciously controversial choices. As a character, she is a bit of a cipher as her excursions into impropriety don't seem to affect her in the slightest. After a series of bad actions, things start to unravel in the household as an undercurrent of domestic strife affects just about everyone. With the unfaithful husband, a pregnant wife, a little girl torn, a vengeful mother-in-law, and a put-upon house manager--it is unlikely that anyone will remain unscathed. Plots and schemes begin to surface, but through all the escalating tension--the film manages to remain inexplicably detached. The film finishes with an unexpected flourish that is likely to further divide audiences.

Visually, the film is very beautiful (man, that's a great house!). And the primary actors are all especially good. I have to shout out to the invaluable Yun Yeo-Jung. As the woman behind the scenes that really runs the household, she steals every scene that she's in. While the film is ostensibly about the new housemaid, I found this stalwart servant to be the real heart of the movie. Initially, rigid and imposing--she becomes the moral compass navigating the treacherous waters between the two opposing factions. A study of class differences and gender roles, this upscale soap opera might not appeal to everyone. I, personally, thought it lacked a bit of punch and left me more emotionally disengaged than I would have liked. But it's still a noteworthy film with many great attributes. Recommended for patient viewers who aren't expecting a thriller! KGHarris, 6/11.
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on June 20, 2011
A beautiful young woman comes to work as a housemaid/nanny for an extremely wealthy Korean businessman and his heavily pregnant young wife who live in a world where nothing is denied. It doesn't take long for his eye to wander to his servant. Extreme viciousness ensues as the various members of the household unite to take action to protect and preserve the family at whatever cost. exceptional performances from one and all in the cast down to the two young children of the couple. But the older house servant is riveting to watch with a beautifully layered performance reflecting all her desires, interests, anger, pain and rebellion, often simultaneously. Her performance alone would make the film worth watching and buying. More a class study than a thriller, but there's more than enough action to satisfy most viewers.
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on January 12, 2011
I heard the announcement this movie would be remade with skepticism. When this DVD came out, I made sure I watched the original 1960 movie FIRST. Then the next day I watched this DVD from Amazon. Wow. For once, a remake that is not made from a blueprint of the original with the intent to cash in from the original's acclaim. This adaption is inspired and original in its own way. The direction and cinematography is amazing, the actors fit their role perfectly, and the plot is clever with a climax that is breathtaking. Definitely not for children with all the sultry sex scenes. This DVD was awesome. Rest assured, it will play in the USA (thank god).
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VINE VOICEon August 8, 2011
This movie is a remake of a 1960 Korean production. I have not seen this earlier film, but not to worry, the general themes covered in the recent version (English subtitles) have often been explored in cinema land.

It's about a young woman, Eun-yi (Do-yeon Jeon), who, due to economic necessity, becomes a housemaid for a super-wealthy Korean family. The maid is a pleasant, compassionate woman. Jung-Jae Lee plays the young patriarch of the family. He is used to having his way, or so says his heartless mother-in-law. So, he has his way with Eun-yi, even though he has a young daughter, and his wife is pregnant with twins. Most would say he did not rape the maid, but it's clear that she would lose her job if she did not submit. Complicating the image of the rich guy using the poor woman is the fact that Eun-yi is attracted to him.

I do not want to reveal any more of the story. All of the actors were very sharp. We get a convincing image of the evil deeds of evil people who are rich enough to try to cover their tracks with cash. Those who equate great wealth with moral bankruptcy will not be disappointed here.

One fascinating aspect of the film for me was how the opening sequence strongly suggested the story's conclusion. Throughout, I was thinking that I knew where it was headed. I will not tell you if I was right, but I will tell you that the conclusion was very powerful.
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on October 22, 2011
I think this might fit into the melodrama category of film and it's really intense. It gives you insight into a culture that is deeply rooted in beliefs and a class difference that is horribly divided. By the end of the movie you almost won't be sure who to feel sorry for. The protagonist and antagonist are so blurred at times you kind of wonder where the movie started and it's all so seamless. The end is awesome and ties everything together. You really see how emotion and cavalier actions can bring out the worst in people when it's not checked or controlled. Give it a shot, you might just get taken on a roller coaster ride.
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on August 25, 2012
Let's admit...for a few years film festival movies were pretty bad and in this current movie market, both festival and main stream movies left you craving braincells....This is a movie that takes the cake and gives me hope for the crud pumped out of the film industry...Of course, in grand fashion, an amazing movie like this did not go to cinemas everywhere and thus we are left with a great movie with little PA. Instead we are fed with a spoonful of action and bang, with no brain stimulus....makes the movie Idiocracy eerily close to reality in my book....I intend to look for more work from this artist/producer.
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on May 2, 2014
Some people complain that at times the movie is slow, but the storyline is great; acting is great; direction is great; cinematography is great; soundtrack is great; and the characters are remarkably well realized. This movie is a winner. 4 stars.
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on September 16, 2014
I could say "The Ending!!!" ten thousand times and consider it a sufficient review, but since I don't think that will help very many people, I'll put a little more sane effort into my review of this movie:

First off, I would like to say, I have not seen the original version of this movie. I don't watch subtitled movies very often (movies not made in/for America) because I some trouble keeping up with watching while reading what they're saying, but this film wasn't too bad with lots of stuff to read in little amounts of time.

The plot seemed a little slow at first (***POSSIBLE SPOILER WARNING***) it seemed like a typical husband-cheating-with-maid story -- but once the surprise baby comes into the mix, all hell breaks loose. There is so much betrayal and ill-intended situations in this movie that it's crazy -- in a good way.

The ending is what totally sold the movie for me, something I wasn't totally expecting. I think I sat, like an idiot, staring at the screen like "...holy CRAP!" for several long seconds before my brain rebooted from a mental freeze because of it.

...And then there was the very ending, like nothing happened. Nothing to everyone but Nami... Little, sweet Nami, who seems to see the world in a more adult way than any of the actual adults -- will she become selfish and arrogant like her parents, or will she learn from this horrifying lesson...?

I wish there was a follow-up movie so we could find out!
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on May 6, 2014
When the first scene started, I already had an idea of how the movie would conclude. Although, I admit that it was much more dramatic than I anticipated, it was still a great movie. A new, young housemaid in the house of a powerful businessman, combine that with a conniving and controlling mother-in-law, a jealous housewife, a torn daughter, and a silent but powerful head maid who was the one running things behind closed doors and that makes for an interesting movie!

From what I understand, this was a remake of a 1960 film with the same title. This modernized version did have more sexuality than its predecessor, but it didn't take away from the story as much as I thought it would. While watching the movie, you can begin to feel the tension rise in the house, so much so that when the climax arrives you think it would blow the cap off the rest of the story. In the end, I felt like the movie had a very dark ending, a very surprising dark ending.

All in all, it was still a good movie to watch. I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would. Although, I did wonder what would have happened if she didn't decide to keep the child initially. Would she still have been alive? Would she still work for the family, or return to her old life?

That's a series of questions that I would like to have answered one day or another...
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on April 24, 2013
A rich family hires a young, naive, live-in house servant/nanny. She is seduced by the husband; the pregnant wife finds out that he has impregnated her. The wife's mother is a ________ (fill in the blank with any horrible word); the other housekeeper knows the family well. It's a bit more complex than this, and that is a problem.

The movie is a remake of an early-60s movie of the same name, which I have not seen, but need to see to get a better grip on this movie.

I really was consumed by the storyline. It is well acted and written, for the most part. I believe the problems lie in the background stories that are never revealed. What does the husband do? What is with the older housekeeper? What is her dark secret? The repetitious 'all men from that family are like that" line means what? There is a "Dangerous Liaisons" type of narrative, but some holes in the plot kept me hoping that there would be a well-rounded conclusion to the movie. I even understood the "descent into madness" idea, but thought that the ending was way too rushed and holes left unfilled.

The movie needed another 20 minutes at least. I know it is a big leap from the 1960s to include sex, nudity, language, and graphic violence, but was it really necessary in this movie? I don't believe so. I think it detracted to the story than make it more believable. I didn't understand the very end, the outside dream-like scene.

3 1/2 of 5. Rushed and a bit overzealous. I've seen many Korean movies, some worse and some much better. Funny - it would make a great propaganda showing for the North.
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