"The Handmaiden" is the final selection of our month of love.
February is over this weekend, which means Hinge Blog, too, must come to an end.
It's been a fun rollercoaster ride of love, all kinds, and I hope you enjoyed the theme as much as I did. March will revert back to our usual chaotic mishmash, but I have an idea for an April theme that — dare I say it — would possibly be our dumbest idea yet. Which obviously means I'm stoked for it.
Enough about that for now. We have love to find and feelings to feel, one last time (for 2020, anyway). I'm writing most of this while on assignment in Lakeland, so there's only one pick this week, but we're ending Hinge Blog with a real humdinger, as if there was any other way. Next week will bring the return of my 1,200-word treatises, I promise.
"The Handmaiden" (2016)
Amazon Prime, rated R, 145 minutes
I don't know how much to say about "The Handmaiden" without getting deep in spoiler territory. Yes, the film is 4 years old, but I'm guessing most if not all of you have never seen it (or heard about it, for that matter), and this movie is insane, even by my lofty standards. It's directed by "Oldboy" director Park Chan-Wook if that tells you anything. So let's see how much I can say about the beautiful depiction of romance in this film with those restrictions.
There's this guy named Count Fujiwara (Ha Jung-woo), OK? He's a count — except he's not; he's a con man posing as a count. He's a huge asshole when we meet him. He's living in Korea during the Japanese occupation of the country, in the 1930s. He spots Lady Hideko (Kim Min-hee), a Japanese heiress, one day, and is like, "She and her money are going to be mine because I'm an asshole." One problem with this plan: She lives on a secluded estate with her Uncle Kouzuki (Cho Jin-woong), who is maybe an even bigger asshole than the count. Like, he's a "helped the Japanese take over his own country for a huge profit"-sized asshole. He's not going to let Hideko marry just any jabroni off the street.
The count comes up with a plan: He'll hire someone to connive their way into Lady Hideko's inner circle by posing as her handmaiden. He selects Sookie (Kim Tae-ri), a professional pickpocket, as that person. Sookie is to gradually gain Hideko's trust then convince her to run away from her uncle and marry the count. Then he'll lock her in an asylum and steal her fortune.
That's what is supposed to happen, anyway. Would you believe that things don't go as planned?
(And then continue to spiral out of control and into places I've never seen a film go before. M. Night Shyamalan would be in awe of all this movie's plot twists.)
In the end, two people do fall in love, though not who — and definitely not how — you might think, based on my description. The journey the characters go on to get to the film's final shot is a long one. It's an earned love, not one Park Chan-Wook asks his viewers to buy because, you know, it's a movie.
I don't know if I can say anything else except please watch this film as soon as possible. "Parasite" winning Best Picture at this year's Oscars isn't a fluke. Korea has been making some of the best movies in the world for years now, and this and things like the previously-covered "Burning" are proof. It's bold filmmaking, and I can't get enough of it.
I should stress, again, that "The Handmaiden" is incredibly, uh, visceral, so keep that in mind when selecting movie-watching companions. But damn if it won't fill you with adrenaline and other things for all 145 minutes.