Parasite (Bong Joon-ho, 2019)

 
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What’s This All About

This is what probably Fox News reporters think socialism is.

Upstairs Downstairs

I don’t care about yachts, Ferraris or expensive jewellery. My hobbies are way much cheaper. I’m happy with my books and movies that normally cost me less than 20 pounds. Yep, it’d be great to fly first class, move to a bigger flat or, you know, have some economic stability, but it’s not like I travel by plane all the time or I need plenty of rooms so I can sleep in a different one each night. I don’t find the lifestyle of the rich and famous that fascinating.

With the impending extinction of the middle class, Bong Joon-ho offers with Parasite a niche social critique about the extents people will go to maintain their status or to have, at least, the same opportunities. Rather than filming a miserabilist and heavy-handed criticism against the world’s obsession with unnecessary luxuries, Joon-ho has developed a rare edge-of-your-seat art-house movie that’s become a major hit among critics and audiences alike.

The film’s biggest strength lies in its perfectly constructed plot with so many clever twists it’s almost impossible to talk about Parasite without spoiling any of them. As this is mainly a satire, the story’s never interested in being subtle with its social commentary. Bong Joon-ho’s intentions are clear right from the start when one of the leading characters gets a stone as a gift from his rich friend and claims that it’s metaphorical. It’s not. It’s just a stone. A stone that works better as a Chekov’s gun than a hidden message. The director’s outrage against social injustice is too intense and indignant to be allegorical and subdued. Despite the movie’s conspicuous anti-capitalist tendencies, Bong Joon-ho doesn’t take sides as both rich and poor families come off badly. Really bad. Yet Parasite manages to introduce us to a great cast of sympathetic characters even if they’re constantly doing terrible things.

With Parasite, Bong Joon-ho has delivered his best work to date. The South Korean director has always combined irony with gravitas and goofiness with horror with sometimes uneven results—Snowpiercer, yes, please; Okja, not so much—but for this wickedly entertaining movie about class struggle, family dynamics and the world’s obsession with American culture, he blends comedy and thriller in a masterful way where you end up laughing not because of some elaborate jokes but because Joon-ho is constantly fooling you.

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Spoiler Area

Whatever you say about this movie would be a spoiler in itself, so let’s focus on the movie’s last minutes.

Parasite fizzles out towards the final act because the climax is not as epic and bonkers as the screenplay leads you to believe. The dénouement, on the other hand, requires the viewer's willing suspension of disbelief with father Kim sending a (very long) message through Morse code and son Kim surviving that massive head injury. But, let’s be honest, Parasite was never interested in telling a plausible story.

Its faux-ending, however, hits a nerve because we know that the son won’t be able to get a career, become rich and save his dad because this uncontrolled plutocrat system won’t even give him a chance. 

Stray Observations

  • After Call Me By Your Name, I never looked at peaches the same way again. And after Parasite I don’t think I want them near me.

The Moment

Moon-gwang returns and everything goes down the drain.

Moon-gwang returns and elevates the movie into something brilliant.

The Quote

—They’re rich but still nice.

—They nice because they’re rich.

Recommended for

Fans of con movies that like to be conned.

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Good Companion Pieces

  • The Servant (1963), by Joseph Losey

  • Live-In Maid (2004), by Jorge Gaggero

  • Alias (1999) by Marina de Van to name a few examples of movies where the serving staff take control over their masters.

Why Am I Watching This?

  • Bong D’or

  • Rapturous response from basically everywhere.

MVP (cast)

The cast is deliciously evil, but—sorry, guys—the actresses are the ones who are at the top my list. I still can’t decide from kween So-dam Park, jejune Yeo-jeong Jo, boss Hye-jin Jang or nutty Jeong-eun Lee.

MVP (crew)

Of course that dream house, designed by Ha-jun Lee, has to be magnificent as it not only has to captivate our protagonists, but it also has to reinforce the enormous gap between the rich and the poor.

Judging a film by its trailer

Neon’s done a great job by editing a trailer that’s intriguing without revealing any major plot point. Watch.

Audience Reaction

The audience ate this up. The best way to enjoy Parasite is going in blind, of course, but watching this in a packed theatre will enhance the experience.

For Your Consideration

Best Movie - Best Director: Bong Joon-ho - Best Actor: Woo-sik Choi ^ - Best Supporting Actress: Hye-jin Jang, Jeong-eun Lee, So-dam Park, Yeo-jeong Jo - Best Supporting Actor: Kang-ho Song, Myeong-hoon Park, Sun-kyun Lee - Best Original Screenplay: Bong Joon-ho, Jin Won Han - Best Cinematography: Kyung-pyo Hong - Best Editing: Jinmo Yang - Best Music: Jaeil Jung - Best Production Design: Ha-jun Lee - Best Ensemble Cast

^ Disclaimer: As it is an ensemble cast, it’s not so easy to determine who’s lead or supporting, but I’m sticking with the actor who plays the son as the only lead as he’s the story catalyst who later on wraps up the whole story.