Korean director Bong Joon Ho is one of the best filmmakers working today. From his take on the monster movie with The Host to his animal rights creed Okja, he has surveyed many different genres with his work and more often than not succeeded within them. In his latest, Parasite, he returns to the theme of classism he explored in Snowpiercer, but this time on a smaller, more human level.
Parasite sees Ki-taek take over a job from a friend of his as English teacher to the daughter of a wealthy family. His family, the Kims, is entirely unemployed, but soon enough they all find work with the rich Park clan. How they do so shows what kind of people they are. They lie and cheat their way into these jobs, leaving their soon-to-be-departed predecessors as collateral damage. The Parks are none the wiser though, and welcome these people, who they think to be strangers to each other, into their well-appointed home.
While Ki-taek falls in love with his teen pupil Da-hye, his family is living it up on the fat wages they’re collecting from their new bosses. One weekend, while the Parks are away on vacation, the Kims avail themselves of the family home, only to be blindsided by the return of the former house manager Moon-gwang. She was sabotaged into losing her job in a particularly nasty fashion and has made her way back to collect something important to her. What that is will undoubtedly surprise and shock you, the viewer. This discovery leads to a domino effect of disaster that will affect everyone involved and leave not everyone alive and well, when all is said and done.
In the movie, our allegiances are constantly tested and stretched. While one would normally side with the less fortunate Kims, much of their behavior is far from commendable and sometimes verging on the despicable. And yet, we feel for them and their lowly lot in life. Meanwhile, the Parks are rich and clueless, especially the lady of the house whose gullibility verges on the ridiculous. Mr. Park is somewhat more self-aware, but is insulated from the challenges of everyday life in his moneyed bubble. The Kims see all of this behavior as weakness though, and use it to their advantage.
Director and co-writer Bong Joon Ho makes all of the characters and their actions believable even when they’re incomprehensible to the objective eye. His work with his players recalls that of a theatrical director, as most of the action takes place within the confines of the Park family domicile. He masterfully uses his camera to enliven the dramatic action and only sparingly punctuates the proceedings with a noticeable move or shot. It’s better not to see the puppet master behind this show. It’s already engrossing enough, as is.
Having won the Palme D’or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, Parasite now looks to make the leap into the Academy Awards race. Currently sitting at 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, it would not be a surprise if it could make it into the Best Picture conversation. For a foreign film to achieve that, it must be a rare breed of movie. Parasite is that, and so much more. See it in a theater near you or miss out on one of the best films of this or any other year.
Recommended if you liked: Snowpiercer, Okja, The Host
FINAL GRADE: A+
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