The Taste of Money review: An ensemble piece that looks at the sordid life of a wealthy family, and the power they have.
The Taste of Money review, Luke Ryan Baldock at the London Korean Film Festival.
Each year at The London Korean Film Festival, a performer is thrust into the spotlight for a look back at a body of their work. This year it is the turn of Baek Yoon Sik, a man who first came to notice in the delightfully dark and mad Save the Green Planet. The first of his films to be screened is The Taste of Money, a confrontational look at the wealthy elite, their sordid practises, and the corruption that keeps them in power. An interesting choice, as it is an ensemble piece in which Baek shares screen time equally with a rich and diverse cast.
Young Jak (Kim Kang Woo) is a devoted gopher for a rich family, currently under investigation for tax avoidance. Young Jak carries out various errands for the family and has done for a decade. One evening he uncovers an affair between the head of the family, and CEO of the company, Yoon (Baek) and the Filipino maid Eva (Maui Taylor). It turns out that Yoon’s wife, Baek Geum Ok (Youn Yuh Jung), is the real driving force behind the family, and she lures Young Jak into a sordid world of sex, money, and betrayal. Young Jak tries to keep relations and sanity in an increasingly complicated family feud, especially with Yoon and Geum Ok’s daughter Na Mi (Kim Hyo Jin), who seems to be embarrassed and against her family’s corrupt morales.
Lavish would certainly be the key word to describe The Taste of Money. The opening scene sees Young Jak and Yoon enter a vault of money, where Young Jak begins putting bundles of cash in suitcases as Yoon encourages him to help himself as everybody else does. We see huge buildings, a well shot driving scene where Young Jak’s car is the only one moving in real time as traffic on other roads is sped-up, and the home of the sordid family is beautifully designed but cold – despite the number of fireplaces.
Although the themes are well explored, with the corruption that money can cause being a main focus, the overall film is quite uneven. Although the Korean actors all bring their A game, there are a number of English speaking characters and actors whose lines fall very flat. It has to be considered as to whether they were cast simply for their ability to speak languages. These always break-up scenes and snap the audience from the overall film. Elsewhere the humour is just as patchy, often hitting the mark for laughter, but questionable in its execution. Yoon’s affair with a younger woman is played as dark, mysterious, and taboo, but once Geum Ok also expresses her sexuality, it is played as a humorous and repulsive. Although perhaps a clever comment on the differences between male and female sexuality, it just never quite sits right.
Beautiful to look at and always engaging, Im Sang Soo generates enough intrigue to keep interest. However, we’re never completely sold on the moral quandaries due to a distinct bias against the wealthy. The family we’re presented with are so detestable and out of touch that Young Jak’s journey is never one of uncertainty, and is more a case of waiting for his conscience to prevail. Perhaps too flippant to be truly powerful, it’s still enjoyable and at times satirically sharp.
The Taste of Money review by Luke Ryan Baldock. The film screened as part of the London Korean Film Festival 2016.