Er Woo Dong: Unattended Flower (2015) Korean Movie Review
If you watch a lot of Korean movies, you may be familiar with the question of “who thought this movie would be a success”. As the industry is still very Adhoc even compared to Hollywood, many movies that, people who know movies would guess correctly that it would not make money, are getting made thinking that they may make a profit.
At the same time, this is one of the reasons why Korea movies tend to be interesting for movie buffs like me since you see a lot of weird failed experiments in art-house/mainstream hybrid movies. An example of this is “Casa Amor: Exclusive For Ladies” (2015). 5 minutes into the movie, I knew it would be a commercial failure. The fact that the trailer did the best to hide what the movie was also was a dead giveaway. Here is a link to my review of this Casa Amor: Exclusive For Ladies.[link]
However, this does not mean that all failures are interesting. There are still movies that fail because they are just incompetent. “Er Woo Dong: Unattended Flower” 어우동: 주인없는 꽃 (2015) is in that category. And I actually had to look hard to be able to see the movie since it is only on 15 screens in the entire country.
The story of “Er Woo Dong”, who was a real-life “Courtesan” during the Joseon Period, is a quite famous sex scandal in Korean history. To be frank, it could be called the most famous one ever.
“Er Woo Dong” was killed in 1480A.D. because of the sex scandal in which she was involved with multiple high ranking officials. In fact, there were rumors she was also involved with the King of the time.
Think of the “Marilyn Monroe” of her time.
The scandal was huge because of the pure scale of her lovers’ list and the fact that she made them tattoo her symbol on their bodies which is a huge no-no in Confucianism. In addition, the fact that “Er Woo Dong” was the ex-wife of nobility caused the impact of the scandal to explode. “Er Woo Dong” was the only one killed because of this scandal.
The movie Er Woo Dong: Unattended Flower어우동: 주인없는 꽃 (2015) loosely follows these historical events and I say loosely. The movie is a 3 act movie in which “Er Woo Dong” gets seduced into marrying a philandering royal and then gets dumped. The second act is “Er Woo Dong” rising in fame as “Courtesan”. The third act the scandal exploding.
For all intends, “Er Woo Dong: Unattended Flower” 어우동: 주인없는 꽃 (2015) feels like a cheaply made Lifetime channel movie. On the production side, you know that not a lot of money was put into the movie. An episode of a Korean drama period show looks like it had more money than this movie. So, at least the damage was not high. An elderly gentleman was worrying about that after the screening. I think he knows the people involved with the production.
Could you imagine what you would say if you knew the director of a terrible movie and he asks you whether you liked it? On one hand, you would like to slap him hard for stealing two hours of your life you would never get back. However, on the other hand, you will know that he will lose a lot of money since even small movies are not cheap.
On the actual making of the movie, the movie is just dull, unimaginative, and has no idea what it wants to do. I was interested in seeing the movie because of the trailer even though the movie seemed more on the indie side in scale. The truth is that I would get the person who made the trailer to make one for my movie if I ever make one. The trailer stitches together all the best parts of the movie and actually makes them better than they actually are.
The first thing you notice watching the movie is that the dialogue is just pedestrian at best and cheesy as hell most of the time. From the start, the movie is in your face with what they think is a shocking scene which is not shocking and rather dull without easing the audience into it. As a result, you start the movie rather offended a little without realizing that the scene you just saw was one of the best in the movie. It is rather evident that the director had no real talent.
What hurts this talentless director more beyond having no talent is an incompetent script. Broadly, the screenplay lacks logical connections between character decisions. The characters do some radical stuff and the movie does not show how they got to that specific decision. If you really think about it, you could guess the reasoning. However, none of that is on screen. As a result, you just think that the characters are overreacting.
Getting into the specifics, the movie does not really know what it wants to be. During the first act, it has a “Dangerous Liaisons” (1988) vibe to it. Then, in the second act, the vibe turns into a twisted self-destructive revenge thing. In the last act, the movie turns into a female liberation/ feminism angle movie. From the conclusion of the movie, I think that this feminism angle was the point of the movie. It is the point of the title after the colon. This is not too much of a stretch in concept. There are interpretations of the original events that align with that angle. However, “Er Woo Dong: Unattended Flower” 어우동: 주인없는 꽃 (2015) seems to not have any idea how to get there. The result is that there is a lot of tonal fluctuation.
“Er Woo Dong: Unattended Flower” 어우동: 주인없는 꽃 (2015) feels like a “Dangerous Liaisons” (1988) and “The Duchess” (2008) had some dirty trashy sex in a seedy motel after eating some bad Korean food. The resulting love child who was abandoned at birth is “Er Woo Dong: Unattended Flower” 어우동: 주인없는 꽃 (2015).
In addition to the untalented director and the incompetent script, the casting is also a problem. Most of the cast is just not good as the movie seemed to have hired them at a discount price.
Hiring actors by the dozen!
Song Eun Chae
The most problematic casting it the title character of “Er Woo Dong” played by Song Eun Chae. The first thing is that she just cannot act. The second is that considering that every character in the movie thinks that she is the greatest beauty they have ever seen, Song Eun Chae is not attractive enough for the role. According to Korean TV standards, she is more like “not ugly”. And I am not particularly interested in seeing her naked.
I would not stop it but would not pay to see it or pirate it off the internet.
The best actor in the movie is Baek Do-bin who plays the philandering royal husband. He has been in many movies and Korean dramas as supporting characters. Partially because of his acting and partially because of how his character was conceived, Baek Do-bin’s character is the most interesting character in the movie. He, in many ways, is this tragic character who was never meant to do anything even though he was born as a royal. Thus, he ends up as this frustrated philandering drunk. You could build a story around him and his relationship with his relative, the king.
The problem with Baek Do-bin’s character is that nothing of this potential is every developed. In addition, Baek Do-bin does not do seduction well. In other words, he is noJohn Malkovich from “Dangerous Liaisons” (1988). I do not know why that casting works but it does. Baek Do-bin seems better at portraying internal frustration and resentment.
“Er Woo Dong: Unattended Flower” 어우동: 주인없는 꽃 (2015) is sold as an erotic thriller type of a movie. So, it needs to do well is the sex appeal department. And this movie fails at this also.
At the skin exposure level, the movie is on the level of softcore porn you saw on free cable but not as in your face as “Spartacus: War of the Damned” (2010–2013). There are about 3 full sex scenes in the movie with little other tidbits here and there. To be frank, there are just boring. None of them are interestingly filmed or staged. For a heterosexual man, if you are thinking that you would exchange these scenes for ones with better dialogue for fully clothed actors, there is something seriously wrong.
“Er Woo Dong: Unattended Flower” 어우동: 주인없는 꽃 (2015) is simply not a good movie. It is not even an interesting disaster like The “Tenor: Lirico Spinto” 더 테너-리리코 스핀토(2014). Here is a link to my review of that overly too ambitious arthouse movie. [link]
“Er Woo Dong: Unattended Flower” 어우동: 주인없는 꽃 (2015) is just incompetent to the degree that I kept thinking that you could make a better movie with half the budget and half the cast of this movie. Well… you would need a far better lead actress though.
The only good thing I could say about the movie is that the costumes looked nice. But “The Royal Tailor” (2014) did a far better job in that area. I would not recommend seeing this unless you are very bored. Just go watch “Dangerous Liaisons” (1988). I give this movie an F.
Score: F or 0/10