Or, Lifestyles of the Rich and Soulless. Much like his 2010 remake of the influential Korean shocker The Housemaid (1960), the latest provocation from Im Sang-soo is a slickly somnambulant affair. Taking place almost entirely in a massive, opulent mansion, the film follows the loyal manservant, Joo (Kim Kang-woo), of an obscenely rich family as he uncovers the moral depths to which his employers have sunk. To these big spenders—who have a walk-in safe stacked floor to ceiling with crisp bills—the outside world is something that intrudes only via television news reports and the occasional, easily paid-off scandal. Their real problems are the stuff of ribald soap operas: Dad is sleeping with the Filipina maid; Mom is a frigid bitch with the hots for Joo; daughter Nami (Kim Hyo-jin) is a bored divorcée longing for something more.
Im could care less about these people as characters, presenting them as either obscenely hot or repellently decaying bundles of flesh. (What’s the difference, the film seems to say, when you’re living in a power-obsessed world where currency is king? Thanks for that insight!) The deck is stacked early and often; by the time Joo is disgustedly pounding away at his elderly mistress’s soft-core-obscured lady parts, The Taste of Money’s pervasive cynicism has reached a monotonous, relentlessly scornful boil that never diminishes. This is a completely unenlightening cri de coeur against the most obvious targets of financial-spiritual discontent. And Im’s last-act attempt at a grandly tragic summation—complete with soul-cleansing monsoon!—reeks of the worst sort of scolding, holier-than-thou moralism.
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