Casa Amor: Exclusive For Ladies (2015) Korean Movie Review
It has been a few weeks since I saw this movie and I had put this review on the back burner for some reason I cannot put my finger on. It is not that I had nothing to say about this movie. On the contrary, there is a lot to say about “Casa Amor: Exclusive For Ladies” (2015) of which many have now evaporated into the mist of the writer’s amnesia brain.
In any case, to the movie!
Casa Amor: Exclusive For Ladies (2015) is an interesting example of the Korean movie industry as a whole. From the promotion and the plot description alone, you would think that this movie is your typical raunchy sex comedy that has been popping up in Korean cinema for a while now. However,
And to a not insignificant degree, the failure of this movie at the Korean box-office should be contributed to this false promotion. The rest of the responsibility should be put on what this movie is. It is an art-house/experimental Aesthetic put onto the bones of a 90s Rob Reiner /Nora Ephron romantic comedy. This is a very weird combination that would only get greenlit as a movie in Korea.
In regards to the plot, think 90s Rob Reiner /Nora Ephron romantic comedy but about a raunchy subject and gender-swapped to a degree. You have the character of Bo-Hee played by Cho Yeo-Jeong. Korean drama viewers would know her from “I Need Romance” (2012). Korean movie fans will know her from the steamy period erotic thriller “The Concubine” (2012).
Bo-Hee is a character that can be thought of as a Meg Ryan klutzy career woman character with a pinch of the aggressiveness of Katherine Heigl put into the mix. In Casa Amor: Exclusive For Ladies(2015), Bo-Hee is playing the Jason Bateman role of a workaholic that somewhat ignores the family which includes sex with the husband.
You know where the character is going!
It is the character who, at the end of the movie, ends up doing this big gesture about family being more important than one’s career character.
Because of “events”, Bo-Hee gets fired from her job at a toy company and encounters her neighbor, Nan-Hee, who runs a failing sex toy shop. Nan-Hee is played by the singer Clara. Nan-Hee is a mix of the silent gothic feel of a young Christina Ricci and the perky but crazy pixie aspect of Krysten Ritter.
After the initial misunderstanding of your rom-com meet-cute scene you would expect, the two becomes closest pals and decide to go into business together after Nan-Hee helps Bo-Hee achieve orgasmic climax for the first time ever and she is in her mid-30s now. The rest of the plot is dealing with the business and her relationship with her husband.
The thing about “Casa Amor: Exclusive For Ladies” (2015) is that it is not a movie in which plot is the most important thing even compared to your typical rom-com. To be frank, the plot of the movie is actually the worst part of the movie. Thank god that there are long portions of this movie that has no real plot!
I can’t believe I actually said this!
The absurd Romantic Comedy
From the start of the movie, you get a feeling that this is not your typical raunchy rom-com. The movie is very stylized and heightened with every character acting in this overtly quippy manner that makes the performance of Johnny Depp in “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” (2005) seem just at home.
This stylization can be described as an art-house and, to a degree, it has an absurd quality to it. From the start, the movie ramps it up by essentially becoming “Toys” (1992) starring the late Robin Williams. She and everyone is riding around in small boxcars at work like it is not a totally absurd thing to see or actually do at work. Considering that the company Bo-Hee works at is a Toy manufacturing company, this is an overt reference on the part of the director to the movie “Toys” (1992).
RIP Robin Williams!
And to movie’s credit, this absurdist stylism is actually the best part of the movie once you get acclimated to it. Most of the first half of the movie is basically a showcase for a Montague of scenes mixing sex and absurd stylism that sometimes veer into the territory of grotesque ever so slightly.
With the characters, this quality is well represented with the character of Nan-Hee played by Clara. Compared to Bo-Hee who is basically based on a standard rom-com character, Nan-Hee is this weird nymph of a character that only really could exist in this absurd environment. That is why I described her as “a mix of the silent gothic feel of young Christina Ricci and perky but crazy pixie aspect of Krysten Ritter”.
The result of this art-house like approach is that all of the basically plotless scenes in the movie are very creative and interesting especially in combination with the whole raunchy aspect of the movie’s concept.
Is this movie sexy???
As a raunchy movie, “Casa Amor: Exclusive For Ladies” (2015) pushes the boundary between what I would call a PG-13 and an R rated movie. The sex scenes in the movie show skin but hide what needs to be hidden. Thus, in the skin area, it is more like softcore porn. However, at the same time, the movie is not afraid of creating very very sexual situations. More accurately, “Casa Amor: Exclusive For Ladies” (2015) deals with sex in a very in your face manner.
You will see a lot of dildos and edible panties in this movie. The movie does not shy away from saying that sex and sexual fetishes are not an unnatural thing, especially for women. However, this in your face approach presents the question of whether this movie is sexy.
This is where to absurdist nature of the movie comes into play. Since the movie is so stylized and pushes everything into hyper gear, the result is that the sex is more ridiculous and absurd than sexy. In addition to this, the way the movie is shot also contributes to this rather asexual effect.
The look of the movie feels like one of those so-called “edgy” fashion magazines where you know the photographer is gay by how he takes pictures of the female form. Women and their bodies are viewed as these beautiful art pieces rather than being viewed as sexual objects. Thus, the resulting pictures are more modern/pop art than sexy to at least men. This is how “Casa Amor: Exclusive For Ladies” (2015) feels like with its use of very bright and poppy colors and designs.
The first half or so of “Casa Amor: Exclusive For Ladies” (2015) are the best parts of it with its hyper-stylized. The second half is far less interesting as you just know that the director ran out of ideas and thus, decided to get back to the whole “plot” thing! As a result, the first half and second half feel very different from each other.
However, this is just a part of the structural issues with the movie. “Casa Amor: Exclusive For Ladies” (2015) runs for 112 minutes and is more like a 4 act movie than your typical rom-com 3 act structure that is so well tested in this genre. What I mean is that the movie is more of a collection of episodes rather than being a cohesive narrative. While there are ways a collection of episodes could work as a movie, a typical rom-com plot is not one of them.
Minor spoilers for a basic rom-com plot!
The first act of the movie is the setup with Bo-Hee getting fired and Nan-Hee meeting up. In addition, Bo-Hee’s husband moves out because she was not having sex with him.
I’ll talk about the husband later.
The second act has the whole getting the business setup and the Bo-Hee patching things up with her husband essentially with her vagina if I want to be crass. Thus, the end of the story. The movie can end at this point. But we have like an hour left in the story.
2 hours is too long for a rom-com!
The third act is basically the husband complaining about too much sex and your standard raunchy sex jokes but more grotesque than sexy. In the fourth act, suddenly Bo-Hee suddenly is given a“women should take care of her husband and family instead of a career” plotline out of the blue. And this is what the climax of the movie is about.
In a way, it is a whole U-turn from the first two acts where the movie is more pro-feminism with the sexual liberation thing. What is more of a problem is that there was no build-up to this plotline. Up to this point, it was all about sex and nothing really anything else. There was a line about he was not getting sex because she was too busy but it was not explored further. Thus, the fourth act is a problem overall.
Let’s talk about your husband!
The wimp husband
From the setup of “Casa Amor: Exclusive For Ladies” (2015), you think it would be two women leading movies. And it is actually not that. Rather it is two women and the husband leading movie. The husband almost has equal screen time as Nan-Hee. This creates several problems.
One is that the movie is always confused whose story it is telling. It actually starts as the husband’s story than moves to being Bo-Hee and Nan-Hee’s story. After that, it shifts back to the husband’s story. A consequence of this is that Nan-Hee as a character always gets sidestepped whenever the husband’s story comes upfront. So, Nan-Hee as a character disappears for long periods in the latter half of the movie.
This is a serious problem as Bo-Hee and Nan-Hee working together was the most interesting character dynamic since both are not well-developed characters on their own. It would be less of the detriment to the movie if the husband was at least interesting as a character. However, he is the weakest link.
The husband can be described as the collection of the worst aspects of both the standard Billy Crystal and Owen Wilson’s character. He is lazy, whiny, neurotic, self-centered, and passive-aggressive. He whines when he is not getting sex and whines when he is getting too much sex. He complains that his wife is career-minded while he has no passion for his own career and is just a placeholder at his academic job.
As a character, he is so irritating that when he disappeared in the first act, I was so relieved since, according to the 3 act rom-com formula, the spouse does not come back until the 3rd act climax. So, I had a bad reaction when he was brought back at the end of the 2nd act.
Way too early!
Being a 90s Rob Reiner /Nora Ephron romantic comedy
In addition to the total depletion of creatively after the 2nd act, the reduced presence of Nan-Heeand the increased presence of the husband starting with the 3rd act makes the latter hour of the movie drag a lot. However, this does help reveal what was hiding under the surface during the first hour of the movie.
Even during the first hour of the movie, I had a weird sense of familiarity with the movie that I could not nail down exactly because of the stylism of the movie. However, things got clearer when there were no distraction in the second half and I was getting bored.
There is a nosy mother character.
There is a cute no it all kid.
There is a Billy Crystal-like husband.
There is Meg Ryan like Bo-Hee.
She has a helpful female friend in Nan-Hee.
“Casa Amor: Exclusive For Ladies” (2015) feels like 90s Rob Reiner /Nora Ephron romantic comedy! What is more overt is the score. The score seemed very familiar before I noticed that the movie was cribbing scores from 90s Rob Reiner /Nora Ephron romantic comedies. While I am not well versed with music, I definitely identified scores from “When Harry met Sally”(1989) in this movie. Maybe a score from “Sleepless in Seattle” (1993) but I’m not sure about that from just one viewing.
“Casa Amor: Exclusive For Ladies” (2015) is a good example of how Korean art-house/experimental Aesthetical traditions and 90s Hollywood movies mingle and collide to create Korean movies of today. “Casa Amor: Exclusive For Ladies” (2015) is the type of weird movie that would never be made in current-day Hollywood.
And, to be frank, if the Korean industry was actually competent in the “business” area, “Casa Amor: Exclusive For Ladies” (2015) should have never been made since it is too experimental to be mainstream while being too uneven at the same time. It was a bomb in Korea.
However, as a person who loves cinema, it was an interesting movie although there are parts that are just not good. I would watch it again for the art-house/experimental Aesthetic of the movie that I think is fascinating. Both leading ladies are not bad on the eyes or on the acting front also. While none will win acting awards for this movie, both have decent comedic timing and do give their roles all they have.
So, I give “Casa Amor: Exclusive For Ladies” (2015) a C!
Score: C or 4.5/10