At least that’s the unfortunately not-so-subtle conclusion one might draw from this tale of Eun-yi (Jeon Do-yeon), who takes a job as a servant and nanny in the household of the extravagantly wealthy Goh family. Hoon (Lee Jung-jae) is a businessman who turns his attention away from his extremely pregnant-with-twins wife, Haera (Seo Woo), and towards his attractive new employee. And when their affair becomes known to others in the household, Eun-yi might be in mortal peril.
Im might have achieved the Hitchcockian vibe he was aiming for if, as in the original version of the story, the maid were an active player in driving the action. But as played by Jeon, Eun-yi becomes little more than a punching bag for her manipulative, malicious and self-absorbed employers. Hoon sits imperiously at his piano or strides around in a bathrobe while clutching a glass of wine; his Machiavellian mother-in-law (Park Ji-young) lounges in front of the fireplace after surreptitiously planting poison in Eun-yi’s herbal remedies. There’s nothing revelatory in suggesting that the servant class gets crapped on by its economic betters, and little entertainment in watching those economic betters literally smirk at knowing they can get away with it.
There’s a gorgeous look to The Housemaid, with the cavernous interiors of the Goh house rendered quietly creepy. Little of that quiet creepiness, unfortunately, spills over into the narrative, aside from Yun Yeo-jong’s performance as the Gohs’ ever-observant long-time head housekeeper. Im simply offers a tale of class warfare in which you keep expecting someone to strap our poor heroine to a laser table while stroking a cat.
Jeon Do-yeon, Lee Jung-jae, Yun Yeo-jong