Kim Soo-mi plays an old woman who, in everyday life, has to submit to the normal low-class indignities of being a maid, along with a small gamut of other familial problems. However, every so often, she does get to go out in the middle of nowhere and just cuss out every single person or thing in hearing distance. And that's pretty much the entire movie. There is something about a national swearing competition thrown in there, but don't expect too much emphasis on that front. The main serious rival doesn't even show up until the movie's almost over.
I've seen a lot of crude movies in my time, but "Granny's Got Talent" is impressive mainly for being explicitly crude in exactly one way. This is a comedy with exactly one joke- Kim Soo-mi swears people out. The other characters have so little detail as to barely even be noticable. They're basically crude self caricatures. I think. There's more guest stars here than even the most diehard fan of the Korean entertainment industry could possibly keep track of.
Consequently, my initial reaction upon finishing "Granny's Got Talent" was a fairly negative one. Granny swearing and random guest stars don't exactly inspire a lot of interest in me absent some sort of compelling narrative. But even more than most movies I dislike, "Granny's Got Talent" is rather noteworthy mainly for being aimed at a specific audience. And it's not even a Korean audience, necessarily- high brow Koreans will probably be just as unamused as I was.
Rather, "Granny's Got Talent" is pretty squarely aimed at the working service class. The kind of people who have jobs that feel demeaning with bosses they don't really like and personal problems nobody cares about. This, in fact, lies at the very heart of why people use swear words in the first place- heck, it's the whole reason we call it crude language. Us erudite types can resort to insult and putdowns with subtle condescension. There's no need to be direct.
And in that context, of course a swearing grandma comes off as rather crude and low-brow. But this is the entire point. Swear words are a way for the powerless to reclaim power from those people who make life so miserable- even if most of the time they're just two mutually powerless people having a mutually bad day. That's what Kim Soo-mi is really embodying here- the raging thirst for vengeance, and the swear words that can make that desire a reality.
Well, not really. "Granny's Got Talent" is just not a movie at all. One that even upon further analysis I didn't like all that much because the jokes just weren't that funny. Of course, humor is an incredibly subjective medium, and as such, I can see how "Granny's Got Talent" could appeal to some of you out there, who really just want to get some wish fulfillment out of a story about a swearing grandma. Be that as it may, this isn't a concept that much appeals to me personally so "Granny's Got Talent" is not a film I can recommend.
Review by William Schwartz
Staff writer. Has been writing articles for HanCinema since 2012, having lived in South Korea since 2011. Started out in Gyeongju, then to Daegu, then to Ansan, then to Yeongju, then to Seoul, lived on the road for HanCinema's travel diaries series in the summer of 2016, and is currently settled in Anyang. Has good tips for utilizing South Korea's public bus system. William Schwartz can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org.
"[HanCinema's Film Review] "Granny's Got Talent""
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