Movie: The Handmaiden
My Rating: 5 stars
Wow! I was not expecting this movie to be quite as amazing as it was. Actually, I found myself dreading sitting down with what I was sure was going to be a stuffy, three-hour long, period drama. And, it is a three-hour long, period drama. And it does start off seeming as if it’s going to be one of those polite affairs. But, it quickly morphs into a crazy, erotic thriller with so many twists and turns that it’s impossible to guess what’s going to happen next.
This isn’t the kind of movie I can really tell you much about. The plot involves enough of a mystery element that you really wouldn’t want it ruined for you before you sit down to watch it. So, I’ll just give you the log line. A country girl goes to live at the estate of a wealthy foreigner to serve as the chamber maid to the lady of the house. And, then things get weird. Her plan is to swindle this rich lady, but strange things appear to be going on at the house. Plus, our little country girl begins to develop a bit of a crush on her mark. I’ll admit, it all sounds a little bit overwrought. But, believe me when I tell you that the story gets more and more intriguing the longer you watch.
In retrospect, I shouldn’t have worried about this movie at all. It’s directed by Park Chan-wook. You know—the director of Oldboy, the two other “Vengeance” movies, Stoker—amazing films. So, there really wasn’t much risk of this one being a dud. But, I saw those characters lined up in the promo photo, with their old-timey outfits, and those stern expressions on their faces, and I got worried. But no, this is a crazy, spicy, mystery-thriller. So, this is definitely not the kind of movie you’d want to sit down and watch with your in-laws. Things get seriously erotic pretty quickly. You know how if you’re watching a perfectly respectable movie with even one love scene in it, you’re practically guaranteed to have your grandmother walk in the room right as things start to get serious? Well, that sure happened to me. Now I really want everyone to watch this movie just so you can see the sex scene, register everything that’s happening, then imagine me getting caught in the act of sitting alone in my living room watching it. At that point, you really just have to lean into the shame of it all.
See this movie. Yes, it’s intense. Yes, it might be a bit embarrassing to watch with other people. Yes, it involves some pretty grisly mangling. It wouldn’t be a Park Chan-wook film if there wasn’t at least one scene that made you flinch away from the screen. But, it’s worth it. I watched this movie twice in a row, simply because I thought it was so great that I wanted to show it to other people right away. So, run right out and rent this movie before anyone gets the chance to ruin it for you.