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Mr. Housewife - Movie Poster
Original Title:
Mi-seu-teo Joo-boo-kwi-jeu-wang

South Korea 2005

Genre:
Comedy, Drama

Director:
Yoo Seon-dong

Cast:
Han Seok-Kyu
Shin Eun-kyung
Kong Hyeong-jin
Lee Joo-hyeon
Seo Sin-ae
Kim Soo-mi


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Mr. Housewife

Mr. Housewife - Film Screenshot 1

aka Quiz King

Story: Jin-man (Han Seok-Kyu) stays home and takes care of his and his wife's daughter Da-na (Shin-ae Seo), while his wife Soo-hee (Shin Eun-kyung) works at a local tv station and brings the money home. Soo-hee urges her husband to find a new job, but Jin-man actually likes the life of a houseman. He likes to cook and enjoys spending his time with other housewives and play cards with them. However, one day one of the neighbors vanishes into a foreign country without a trace. Unfortunately, Jin-man has entrusted her with a big amount of money in order to get more interest than he would with a bank. When his wife asks him to withdraw the money from the bank since she wants to pay for the upcoming surgery of her father, Jin-man sees himself confronted with a big problem. During a quiz show on tv made for housewives he manages to answer almost all of the questions, which is why his friend Young-seung (Kong Hyeong-jin) drags him to the preliminary round of that show. At first, he turns up in women's clothes and qualifies with an outstanding score. His true identity is soon exposed, though. Yet, the tv station decides to invite Jin-man to the show. After all, he really does work at home like so many housewives and the stereotypes of a man's role in society are supposed to be rewritten now. Yet, Jin-man can't tell his wife about his tv appearance...

Mr. Housewife - Film Screenshot 2 Mr. Housewife - Film Screenshot 3
Mr. Housewife - Film Screenshot 4

Review: Every now and then it's a good thing to ignore the great amount of Korean action blockbusters, which more and more fall victim to their own domestic Hollywood-like commercialization machinery, and watch a movie from those years when Korean cinema had its heyday and even less exceptional movies possessed the kind of charm and heart that you are most of the time desperately looking for nowadays. "Mr. Housewife" is such a case. Not a masterstroke per se this drama comedy can warm your heart in an innocent manner and simply oozes out a little bit of cheerfulness for a change. Additionally, the movie also deals with the subject of the still very paternalistically oriented role pattern in Korea and thus also delivers a bit of social criticism. Still, it's difficult to pinpoint what makes the movie so pleasant in the end. Nostalgia may be playing a small part, too.

Mr. Housewife - Film Screenshot 5

Why nostalgia? Well, "Mr. Housewife" features the kind of warm atmosphere that made Korean productions stand out back in the day. A good example is the movie's finale. It's completely obvious which direction it is heading and things even get a bit corny. But this isn't truely bothersome. Maybe that's because the film doesn't always take itself too serious and even introduces a joke or two during an emotional or even melodramatic scene. And when it comes to the topic of gender role clichés you can do quite a few things wrong, too, or make things look cheap. But here everything seems so innocent that you can't even criticize some of the very obvious stereotypes. In the end, this drama comedy doesn't even raise the claim of wanting to criticize social shortcomings. It simply wants to entertain. The critical tone towards Korean society is merely a bonus.

Mr. Housewife - Film Screenshot 6

It should become clear very soon that the drama isn't really standing in the foreground. The obstacles the protagonist needs to overcome are never really that big, after all, and certainly aren't putting a particularly strong mental pressure on him. Only the wife can bring some more drama into the movie towards the finale since it becomes more and more apparent that the married couple is slowly drifting apart. However, Soo-hee is in fact a big problem since she is coming across as everything but likeable. The things she says to her husband would lead to tears or even a divorce with every woman. Jin-man on the other hand takes those words easy most of the time. But even if we never get to see them hurt him directly, we still feel it. Shin Eun-kyung ("Diary of June") sadly can't give her character more facets and so you need to ask yourself why Jin-man is staying with his wife after all.

Mr. Housewife - Film Screenshot 7

The fact that we never get to know about the fundament of their love and that it's also not revealed during the finale does serious damage to the movie. Of course, every time you have to imagine how the movie would have looked like if the woman would be doing the housework and so the roles would be reversed, meaning things would be like gender role clichés demand it. And then we realize that we would shout at the housewife to just leave her husband right away. This is not the case the other way around, though. Jin-man is such a good-natured guy and Han Seok-Kyu ("The Royal Tailor") bestows the necessary gentleness upon his role that we take his love for Soo-hee for real, even though she doesn't seem to be seriously interested in the marriage for quite some time already. To lose one's wedding ring and not care about it surely would have caused for the couple having a row when events had centered around a housewife. However, Jin-man just puts up with it and even has to deal with his wife not appreaciating his work at home and society in general denying him his manhood.

Mr. Housewife - Film Screenshot 8 Mr. Housewife - Film Screenshot 9

Mr. Housewife - Film Screenshot 10

Despite the aforementioned obvious criticism on the gender role allocation within Korea things are quite cheerful in "Mr. Housewife". Some scenes can even make you laugh out loud because of several slapstick moments. Han Seok-Kyu has a certain grace about him so that he doesn't even look awkward during those moments. Not a lot of actors manage to pull that of. Apart from that the movie is structured in a way that you know from the beginning that you will get a warm, cozy feeling at the end and that every hardship will be blown away. As already said, this might sound unspectacular, but there is also a certain magic about the movie which makes it surpass mediocrety, even though it actually shouldn't. After all, if you are honest the movie neither goes very deep concerning its subject nor does it manage to steer of all genre stereotypes. But it's enough to just have a pleasant feeling when the credits roll.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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