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[HanCinema's Film Review] "The Woman Upstairs"

2014/10/31 | Permalink

Do-hwan (played by Park Won-bin) is a jerk. He's not the biggest jerk I've ever seen at the movies, but he's just unlikable enough that the main source of enjoyment to be had watching "The Woman Upstairs" is to laugh at his misfortunes. To some extent this is deliberate. After the whole scene with the kids and the ball it's difficult to see Do-hwan in any other light. However, this being an erotic comedy, Do-hwan does, inevitably, get laid.

It's a bit of a weird scene though, because obviously something is horribly wrong with the situation and Do-hwan doesn't have quite enough intelligence to realize that no, In-kyeong (played by Seo Yu-ri) is probably not normally a bipolar dominatrix / cutie-pie. So at the conclusion of that scene, Do-hwan is just kind of perplexed about everything, and I'm not sure whether or not I'm supposed to feel bad about him being taken to the police station because even if it was probably technically rape there wasn't any way for him to actually know that...

Watching "The Woman Upstairs" is mostly just a constant stream of these kinds of ambivalent emotions. The movie never made me angry it just sort of made me go...uh...sure I guess? The concept here is actually pretty sound- Do-hwan is constantly aggravated by the weird sounds In-kyeong makes in her room. Also he has issues with bowel movements. It's not exactly high brow humor but it could work in theory.

The trouble is director Lee Chan-wook constantly screws up the comedic timing. Event though the central conceit of the movie is physical humor there's almost no quick, jerky, surprise actions underlining the jokes. One sexy scene is particularly frustrating, because it goes on way too long, to the point I realized it was going to be interrupted by In-kyeong's weird noises, and when it finally happens, the characters just react with mild annoyance instead of freaking out and making a big physical mess.

The sex scenes, too, are surprisingly short and subdued. The eroticism, like everything else in this movie, just sort of mildly interested me. I guess it's better than just watching a blank screen for ninety minutes but everything on display here is just so lackluster. It's not that the people involved in this movie didn't care so much as it is they really didn't have any idea what they were doing. The spiritual storyline turns that make up the late conflict fall almost completely flat because they weren't properly foreshadowed. Also there's only so much you can do with poop jokes.

About the best compliment I can come up with for "The Woman Upstairs" is that it might be the kind of movie that would be fun to mock with a significant other. Presumably the intended audience is couples snuggling together at home anyway, and the proceedings are just straight-faced enough with characters just sympathetic enough that it might make for a semi-decent interactive experience. But please, whatever you do, don't watch this movie alone. Especially not in a theater. "The Woman Upstairs" isn't the kind of film that warrants undivided attention.

Review by William Schwartz

"The Woman Upstairs" is directed by Lee Chan-wook and features Seo Yu-ri, Park Won-bin and Kim Seung-ah.

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