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[HanCinema's Film Review] "The Hypocrites"

2015/12/12 | 1171 views | Permalink

So-yeon (played by Song Eun-jin) was once a cheerful college student with a typical goofy college romance. Then a series of lurid events sent her life spinning toward the cynical. One highly publicized courtroom case later, the issue comes into the public forum. Given how ever-so-complicated the ethical issues are in sexual and legal morality, what better way to shine light on the issues than through a political talk program?

It's easy to blame the panel...except for the most part they do in fact have some relevant expertise. Chang-ho (played by Jang Doo-yi) is a lawyer. Jee-man (played by Kim Jung-kyoon) is a culture critic, whatever that is. In-gyeong (played by Shin So-mi) is a novelist. Maybe that's relevant? Jin-ah (played by Kwon Min-joong) who's more well known for provoking controversy than actually saying anything meaningful but whatever. These people are all (kind of) professionally successful in a way relevant to the topic at hand, so they must know something...right?

"The Hypocrites" is an attack on the process of intellectual discussion. The various panelists aren't actually interested in resolving the thorny ethical question of sexual favors and agency so much as they are in scoring smarmy one-liners against each other. Ironically, even though the issue of sexual favors is oriented to adults by definition, in temperament the characters frequently come off more like bickering children trying to pretend like they're smarter than they really are.

Note that So-yeon is the only character on stage who can really claim to still be a kid- that's the whole reason she went public in the first place. So-yeon was really hurt by her experiences and was hoping for some sort of moral absolution. But she can't get that from the talking heads of the panel, because they've effectively completely divorced their personal moral frameworks from anything that could possibly be useful in an advisory context. It's no coincidence that the character who's best able to manage the game here is the most shameless one.

"The Hypocrites" is a bitterly cynical product, and at times even seemed directed at me personally. I'm a critic, and realistically speaking, I'm probably not much better than Jee-man. I pretend to be neutral as best I can but the reality is I have opinions too and just because I'm good at stating them subtly doesn't make me objective. Jee-man's full name in Korean, by the way, means "but", and that's an effective description of his character as a whole.

Yet for all this I found myself rather enjoying "The Hypocrites", because the main point it makes is pretty unavoidable. Women like So-yeon have not, can not, and never will be able to solve their problems by appealing to society as a whole, because the opinion-movers in society are deceptive self-aggrandizing apes wearing fancy suits. Even by the standards of the genre that's about as vicious as satire gets- attacking the commentators themselves. The weird thing is, by participating in the process even as a spectator I don't feel that much more superior. After all, "The Hypocrites" feed on our attention, growing ever stronger while So-yeon mourns the lack of answers.

Review by William Schwartz

"The Hypocrites" is directed by Kim Jin-hong and features Kwon Min-joong, Kim Jung-kyoon, Jang Doo-yi, Choi Holly, Shin So-mi and Kyung Joon.

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