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So as you know, I stopped writing lengthy reviews on this site this year, keeping the blog as more of a film diary of sorts.  Lo and behold,...

Friday, August 04, 2017

Movie Review - The Handmaiden

The Handmaiden (2016)
Starring Min-hee Kim, Tae-ri Kim, Jung-woo Ha, Jin-woong Cho, and So-ri Moon
Directed by Chan-wook Park
***This film is currently streaming via Amazon Prime***

There's no denying that director Chan-wook Park has an eye for what looks good on the screen.  His three films I've seen thus far all look lush and are lensed in such a way that one hopes that the story lives up to the beautiful visuals.  Unfortunately, that isn't the case with The Handmaiden, a film that was nearly universally praised upon its release, but feels rather corny to me in the way its story unfolds and the way its cast interprets the material.

A similarity between all three Chan-wook Park films I've seen is their willingness to not shy away from eroticism in varying degrees.  That's certainly the case here as a love triangle is unmasked between three parties of different societal rankings who all harbor secrets in an effort to one-up one another.  Sook-hee (Tae-ri Kim) is a young pickpocket hired by Count Fujiwara (Jung-woo Ha) to become the handmaiden to the posh and polished Lady Izumi Hideko (Min-hee Kim).  Lady Izumi lives in an elegant manor with her Uncle Kouzuki (Cho Jin-woong) as her strict guardian.  Count Fujiwara has visited Kouzuki's house at one of the numerous events held there in which Izumi reads sexually explicit literature to groups of men and Fujiwara has fallen for Izumi...or at least that what he pretends.  In actuality, his goal is to have the hired handmaiden Sook-hee convince Izumi that she should marry him; shortly after he will have his wife institutionalized in a mental hospital in an effort to take her savings.  Unfortunately for Fujiwara, Izumi soon begins to fall for Sook-hee, but perhaps Izumi is simply playing Sook-hee for some other form of backstabbing as The Handmaiden is filled with deceit and betrayal...mixed in with a bunch of Skinemax-style lesbian sex.

Although it looks gorgeous and sumptuous, The Handmaiden can't escape the stench of "B-Movie" that permeates throughout.  The story almost feels as if it could've been written by some cheap romance novelist, certainly elevated in visuals by Mr. Park, but weighed down by corniness.  The cast doesn't do the film any favors, hamming it up across the board which seemingly was Park's intention (seeing as how they all act in this manner).  Admittedly, The Handmaiden echoes Hitchcock's works (including the sexualized nature of the entire film), but the plot never elevates itself to something more than a direct-to-video feature.

The RyMickey Rating:  D+

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