Monday, June 7, 2010

Movie Review: Mother

I can see where many of my fellow critics liked Mother. I just don't get how many of them looooved it. I mean, aside from an outstanding lead performance, the whole thing is just odd and slow. Whereas I thought that The Host blended genres effectively (meaning it was a GOOD sci-fi film, a GOOD comedy, a GOOD horror film), Mother was a murder mystery without real mystery, a drama without believable emotion, and a comedy where I wasn't quite sure what to laugh at. Yes, it's original, and in no way "bad," it's just not overwhelmingly good, despite what I've heard from others. Then again, this is the beauty of art, this is just my opinion. You should support Film Streams anyway and see for yourself.

Here's my review.

Momma Fearest
Mother proves parenthood is scary

Korean writer/director Joon-ho Bong’s Madeo (Mother) opens with the titular character played by Hye-ja Kim doing a kooky dance in the middle of an open field while giving the camera creepy murder eyes. Things get weirder from there.

This isn’t much of a surprise to fans of Bong’s last film, Gwoemul (The Host), which played drunken genre hopscotch, delivering the world’s first comedy-sci-fi-horror-action-social-commentary extravaganza. Mother is another film that demands a multi-hyphenate, as the mystery-drama-tragedy-comedy experience defies singularity. You can accuse Bong of many deficiencies, but you damn sure can’t call him a copycat.

The simplicity of Mother’s plot is a front for a complexity of her character. Yoon Do-joon (Bin Won) is the mentally challenged son of the aforementioned momma. After a brief introduction during which Yoon gets run over by a car, the doe-eyed, empty-headed lad gets all liquored up and stays out all night, only to be accused of murdering a school girl the next morning. His mother, who spends her days performing unlicensed acupuncture and chopping herbs, refuses to accept the overwhelming evidence and begins going all Angela Lansbury up in their small hamlet.

The mother, who is never given a name only a responsibility-laden title, suspects everybody of framing her son and committing the murder themselves, including Yoon’s only friend Jin-tae (Ku Jin), primarily because he’s a jerkwad. After shrieking and gasping her way to seemingly infinite dead ends, she picks up a trail involving the dead girl’s horizontal hobbies that lead her straight to a very confusing climax.

Although Bong uses a deliberate pace to allow Kim to ever-so-slowly descend into maternal madness, Mother often makes “Murder She Wrote” feel like a Michael Bay film. This is exacerbated by a visual style that, although beautiful, is also overly patient. Take for instance the obligatory “oh noes, I was snooping for clues and the suspect came home” sequence. When sneaky mommy makes too much noise, the camera doesn’t whisk quickly to the sleeping potential murderer so much as it slowly inches over to him and then, seconds later, cuts to a placid shot from outside the house, abandoning the boiling tension as if it were just too much stimulation to handle.

This is to take nothing away from Kim, who puts on a display of calculated insanity that’s believable enough to be super-duper icky. Combine her docile disposition with her obsessive preoccupation with her son—P.S., they still sleep together and he’s in his 20s—and you get a haunting portrait of protective love gone too far.

Bonus points and gold stars for originality aside, Mother just isn’t all that entertaining to watch, bears no challenging message or theme and pales in comparison to Bong’s previous endeavor. This doesn’t dampen the enthusiasm surround Bong’s potential nor is it a total misfire; it’s just the sort of film that will hopefully one day be considered a minor work in the filmography of a truly gifted budding artist.

Grade = C+

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