Friday, October 25

Parasite Review


Dir: Bong Joon-ho

Starring: Kang-ho Song, Yeo-jeong Jo, So-dam Park, Woo-sik Choi, Sun-kyun Lee, and Seo-joon Park

Some films make you laugh, some films make you cry. Some films make you scared, some films make you think. Every now and then a film tries to make you do all these things, all in one movie. Even less frequently a film successfully does all these things, separately and at once. These are the films that stick with you, these films make an impact; director Bong Joon-ho’s masterful multi-mood drama, comedy, thriller, horror is one of those memorable moments in cinema. 

To call the Kim family “down-on-their-luck” would be an understatement. In fact, if “down-on-their-luck” was street level the Kim’s home, which is located with windows looking up at the street level, would be the better description of their current place in the South Korean city they live in, however, that social status can be universally placed in any big city in the world in Bong Joon-ho’s narrative design here.  

We are introduced to the family sitting in squalor, moving about the crowded living space looking for a Wi-Fi signal to steal from someone living in the spaces above them. The family makes money folding pizza boxes for a delivery company, they aren’t good at it, but they stick together and support one another even when things seem to look bleak. The patriarch of the family is Kim Ki-taek, a brilliant performance from long-time Joon-ho collaborator Kang-ho Song, who doesn’t have much going in his favor beyond the affection of his wife Chung-sook (Hye-jin Jang) and the respect of his daughter Ki-jung (So-dam Park) and son Ki-woo (Woo-sik Choi).  

Things turn in favor of the Kim’s when Ki-woo (Woo-sik Choi) gets a job as a tutor for the Park family (Sun-kyun Lee and Yeo-jeong Jo). The Park’s live in a house that belonged to a famous architect, the design of the home is lavish and the Park family is well-off enough to afford a lifestyle the Kim family could only dream of. And Ki-woo recognizes that opportunity is in the palm of his hands the moment he moves across the boundaries of the world he knows into the wealthy new community. Ki-woo’s charm and lies gets his sister a job as an art teacher/therapist for the Park family’s only son. Ki-jung jokingly talks about knowing nothing about art therapy until she Googled what it meant and then just simply made up the rest. Before long Ki-taek and Chung-sook infiltrate jobs within the family, using underhanded schemes and manipulations to gain jobs as a chauffeur and housekeeper. 

“Parasite” is a film about social status, class systems, family dynamics, human decency and dignity, manners, respect, history…if that sounds like too much narrative politics for one film, it never feels that way. The beauty and masterful quality of this film is that even though it is clearly trying to make a point about different things, Bong Joon-ho never pushes his points in exhaustive ways. It’s the subtlety of his narrative, Joon-ho shares screenplay credit with Jin Won Han, that makes the film as entertaining as it is unnerving, as naturally comical as it is boldly serious. 

Joon-ho has always told intriguing stories by meticulously understanding the visual language used within the frame of his picture. Many times, the framing of characters and the position of shapes and objects in view offer as much visual explanation as a purposeful line of dialog would. “Parasite” is consistently interesting to observe; the contrast between two worlds is told with shapes and the concept of space, where the Kim family operates in tight quarters, often hunching and crouching to get into places that allow them a sense of freedom, the Park family has so much room to explore in their mansion, so much space to lose themselves in their giant world. The identity of two families is explored with how they occupy the frame with one another, where the Kim family is often times positioned close to one another, the Park family is separated and distant from one another. Bong Joon-ho is a master of using space to show and dissect relationships and motivations, it’s all present here.

With everything Bong Joon-ho is doing with the fantastic actors, who all give fantastic performances, and is trying to say with his multifaceted narrative, the core of the film is simply about the complicated lives of two families (plus another twist that will not be revealed here).  Joon-ho taps into uneasy subject matter and then easily finds a way to see the unflinching humor within these truths, it’s a fascinating exploration of humanity regardless of the subtitles and cultural differences found in this film. Bong Joon-ho simply has a keen understanding of people and what motivates them to do both beautiful and disgusting things. 

Bong Joon-ho is a brilliant filmmaker and “Parasite” is absolutely stunning film. 

Monte’s Rating

5.00 out of 5.00

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