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'The Houseguest and My Mother' Double-Crosses Drama

2007/08/06 Source

"The Houseguest and My Mother", left, is a comic remake of a 1961 classic "Mother and a Guest", right, that traces the unspoken love between a gentleman lodger and a widow, played by actress Choi Eun-hee. But in the modern version, a pigtail-wearing mother and precocious teenage daughter both try to win the heart of a conniving Casanova staying at their house.
/ Courtesy of Taewon Entertainment/Courtesy of Korean Film

By Lee Hyo-won
Staff Reporter

The family drama "The Houseguest and My Mother" brings to the screen a comic reinterpretation of the 1961 film, starring two notoriously funny actors that spices up the romantic love story of the original version. "The Houseguest and My Mother" delights viewers with lovable characters and warm scenes capturing the comical and dramatic moments of everyday life. But alas, remakes, especially that of classic films, tend to be risky, and this film is no exception.

"The Houseguest and My Mother" is a modern version of the classic film "Mother and a Guest" by iconic director Shin Sang-ok (1926-2006). The black and white movie won awards for Best Director at the First Daejong Film Awards, Korea's equivalent of the American Academy Awards, and Best Film at the Ninth Asian Film Festival.

In the classic, an adorable seven-year-old girl plays cupid for her mother, a respected widow, and a handsome gentleman lodger. But in "The Houseguest and My Mother", a perky 15-year-old Ok-hi (Ko Eun-ah) competes with her immature mother (Kim Won-hee) for the attention of a sketchy Casanova posing as a veterinarian (Jung Joon-ho).

Deok-geun (Jung), a so-called private detective with a 100 million won debt to pay off, is one day sought out by an old lady searching for her long lost granddaughter. Believing he has hit the jackpot _ the grandmother, despite her humble looks, seemed to have a lot of money _ Deok-geun moves into a tiny rural town to find the missing child, who is by now a grown woman. He finds lodging at a local bed & breakfast.

Hye-ju (Kim Won-hee) is a 30-year-old single mother. Despite her outrageously childish demeanor, complete with pigtails, she is a hardworking woman raising a teenage daughter by running a small cafe/bar and providing bed & breakfast stays at her home. One day, a handsome young " doctor " comes along, at first knocking on her door and ultimately tunneling his way through the hallways to her heart.

With gangsters threatening him for the debt, Deok-geun grows desperate. One day, he discovers that Hye-ju has saved up quite a fortune _ 100 million won to be exact _ and begins to play his playboy tactics to swindle her out of the money.

Meanwhile, Ok-hi, a studious yet slightly rebellious student, disapproves of the budding romance between her mother and the guest of the "sarangbang", or master bedroom (traditionally the private quarter of the patriarch in a hanok, or traditional house).

The film has garnered much attention not only for reinterpreting a classic movie, but also for featuring the perfect marriage of two hilarious stars: Jung Joon-ho, leading man of the hit comedy "Marrying the Mafia" (2002), and comedian Kim Won-hee, heroine of the series' second and third installments (2005, 2006).

Yet, if you are craving pure slapstick, look elsewhere. The trailer presents "The Houseguest and My Mother" as pure comedy, but it must be said that the three-minute clip reveals all the laughter the film has to offer. During a press conference last Tuesday at a Seoul theater, both actors stressed that the film is, at heart, a family drama sprinkled with humor. Yet, the mediocre drama dilutes the fun.

Taking place in a rural setting, the timeframe of the film seems to have halted at the 1970s, and so it could have pulled at your heartstring by delving deeper into the hardships of a single mother.

Viewing"The Houseguest and My Mother" lightheartedly and free of expectations, however, enables viewers to appreciate precious moments of everyday life the film playfully portrays. But for those who are craving more, the film fails to provide anything new and fresh as the drama and comedy clash together. When you try to chase two bunnies, you end of losing both. (Even in film, sometimes its better to make do with one _ a bird in the hand is worth more than two in the bush.)

Opens across theaters Thursday, Aug. 9.

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