PARASITE is the latest film from writer/director Bong Joon Ho, who has become most known for his films The Host, Snowpiercer, and Okja. The film centers around a class warfare struggle between the Parks and the Kims as both families use each other to their own ends and satisfactions before a fateful night threatens to tear everything apart. In this black comedy, modern fairytale stars Bong Joon Ho regular Song Kang-ho (Thirst, Snowpiercer), Lee Sun-kyun (My Mister, Listen to Love), Cho Yeo-jeong (Obsessed, The Concubine), Choi Woo-shik (The Witch: Part 1. The Subversion, Train to Busan), and Park So-dam (Scarlet Innocence, The Priests).
PARASITE is a film that consists of two Acts. In a well-rounded tale that is both hilarious as well as outright heartbreaking once shit hits the fan, we are introduced first to the destitute Kim family. The Kims live essentially in a basement, making ends meet by assembling pizza boxes for delivery. When they are not doing that, they are hunting down free wi-fi and finding ways to cut corners to make their daily lives a little bit easier (and cheaper). Despite their lack of employment, they are not necessarily unintelligent. All members of the Kim family possess an aptitude for charisma and street smarts, finding ways to keep themselves afloat as they fight to survive in a world that looks down on them. Things start to change when Kim Ki-woo (Choi Woo-shik) is recommended to take over his friend’s tutoring position in the affluent Park household. Once he realizes how easy it is to trick the matriarch Yeon-kyo (Jo Yeo-jeong), the Kim family begins to scheme a way to figure out how to weasel their way into the household and secure jobs for everyone. Again, all in the name of survival.
Watching as the family slowly integrates themselves into the lives of the Park family is nothing short of brilliant, but it honestly couldn’t have been done without the complete and utter gullibility of the affluent family. There are moments when you think that the Kims might be caught, especially once they find a rather cruel way to oust Park family housekeeper Moon-gwang (Lee Jeong-eun). With the patriarch, Mr. Park (Lee Sun-kyun) hardly ever around due to his constant need to work and the complete underhanded tactics utilized by all of the Kims, it almost seems like their plan might pay off. Until former housekeeper, Moon-gwang comes back to deal with something she left behind after she was let go. And it is in her return that everything for the Kim family truly changes, which leads us into the second act of PARASITE.
The film may reach over two hours in terms of length, but the way director Bong Joon Ho has paced the film makes it so the time doesn’t drag. The handling of the pacing combined with the stellar performance from the cast helps to deliver a film that makes the audience think of the differences and similarities between the two families. Neither family is blameless in their actions nor are they completely cast in a villainous light. It is through these humanized portrayals that we are able to dig deep into the complexity of the thematic material Bong Joon Ho is juggling with.
There’s so much that could be discussed about PARASITE, but I do want to keep as much of it as a surprise as I can. Instead, I’m going to highlight a thematic subject that may be of some importance going into the film, especially for our horror movie readers. While this film is not a horror film in the traditional sense, it does touch upon the horror of inequality and how the wealthy and poor feed off of each other while maintaining their status within their own socio-economic class. All human beings have an intrinsic need to survive. The methods in which we choose to act in order to survive are entirely up to ourselves. This is abundantly clear. PARASITE shows us though how seldom the poor are thought of by the wealthy outside of their own personal discomfort. And there are multiple moments in the film, both small and large, that this is showcased in the Parks treatment and view of the poor via the Kim family.
One such example that comes to mind is how there is a silent acknowledgment from the Kim family not to discuss what happened to their home. After a pivotal point in the film, the Kims’ neighborhood is completely decimated by torrential flooding. While the bulk of the Kim family is huddled together with a bunch of their neighbors in a gym, the Park family is snuggled safely in their house, with their youngest son outside in the pouring rain in an American Indian style teepee. It’s such a small moment, but we see how the Kims force themselves to push forward despite the events of that night because they literally have no choice. However, the Park family wants to just focus on a last-minute birthday party for their son, which showcases how insulated their worldview is. Because the neighborhoods being flooded would have been news. But that news doesn’t matter much to the affluent in this case. These little moments are peppered throughout the film and, depending on how many times you watch PARASITE, you’ll be able to pick up a lot more leading up to the heartbreaking, climactic finale.
Many have already said this, but PARASITE is Bong Joon Ho’s masterpiece. All of his work prior to this has lent itself to the crafting of this well-rounded film. There is so much meaning to be found interwoven within the script that it is easy to say that the rewatchability factor is high. But there is not so much injected into the script that the viewer will get lost in translation while taking in everything that is happening onscreen. And while some have mentioned the dystopian feel the film carries, the subject matter is very current and of utmost importance to pay attention to. PARASITE is arguably one of the most relevant films of the year and, in closing, I encourage everyone to add the film to their viewing list ASAP! Within this film, like the majority of fairytales, resides a warning that we must hear.
PARASITE will be released in theaters this Friday, October 11, 2019.
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