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(Movie Review) 'High Society': an intriguing premise ruined by a rushed climax

All Headlines 10:29 August 24, 2018

By Shim Sun-ah

SEOUL, Aug. 24 (Yonhap) -- Many recent Korean films such as "The Taste of Money" and "Inside Men," "Veteran" and "V.I.P.," have portrayed the financial and sexual misbehavior of people in high society. But director Byun Hyuk's new film "High Society" is not like them because it shows the perspective of a middle-class couple looking on longingly from the fringes of the lush life.

It's a terrific premise for a social satire, but the story is ruined by a climax that is so hurriedly put together that you are sure to raise your eyebrows.

A still from "High Society" (Yonhap)

Jang Tae-joon (played by Park Hae-il) is a popular and respected middle-aged economics professor at a Seoul university. He wishes to be a politician in order to materialize his vision of creating micro-loans for economically struggling self-employed workers as a solution to the gradual gentrification of parts of the capital. And then he comes to receive wide media attention by chance and becomes a ruling party candidate for a parliamentary seat.

His wife Oh Su-yeon (Soo Ae) is a successful curator of a big art gallery run by a conglomerate. She insists on staying in Seoul's posh southern Gangnam area even at the cost of high rent to motivate herself to continue working hard. As deputy director of the gallery, one of her most important jobs is to help the conglomerate's owner family create slush funds through dubious transactions of art pieces. Including through this, she does everything to become the director of the gallery.

The director well crafts the characters of the main couple as an everyday middle-class husband and wife who already are well-off but always aim higher. They come across as people who we are familiar with, or maybe ourselves in that they are easily swayed by their own desires even though they clearly know what is right and wrong.

A still from "High Society" (Yonhap)

As it is revealed that there was a dark deal between the conglomerate that operates the gallery and the political party behind Su-yeon's art transactions and Tae-joon's political debut, their lives fall in danger with just one step left before they are accepted into the world they desperately aspire to. So, what choice they are going to make? Would they cross a line in their pursuit of more success or not?

Unfortunately, the story makes a sudden turn in its climax, putting the couple directly into a very different path. The movie never realizes its potential and becomes heavier-handed as things progress.

A still from "High Society" (Yonhap)

It's rather cliche to view the Korean upper class as being ruthless and rotten with lavish lifestyles symbolized by sumptuous villas, expensive cars and wines, sex with young women and dark, complicated connections with politicians and gangsters.

Although well-shot and featuring spirited acting by its main actors, Byun's "High Society" leaves you with no satisfying conclusion and discomfort from its unnecessarily long and obscene sex scenes.

"High Class" is scheduled to be released on Wednesday. The Lotte Entertainment presentation is the first film from Byun after he partly directed "Five Senses Of Eros" (2009). He previously helmed "The Scarlet Letter" (2004) and "Interview" (2000).

sshim@yna.co.kr
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