Review: Parasite (2019)

Parasite

Rating

Director

Bong Joon-ho

Screenplay

Bong Joon-ho, Jin Won Han

Length

2h 12min

Starring

Song Kang-ho, Lee Sun-kyun, Jeong Cho-yeo, Shik Choi-woo, Park So-dam, Lee Jung-eun, Chang Hyae-jin

MPAA Rating

R for language, some violence and sexual content

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Review

Bong Joon-ho is a director who has something to say. The most vital voice that has so far emerged from the Korean film industry has made his most accessible film to date. Parasite tackles poverty and wealth in what amounts to a riveting social drama for a modern age.

Kim Ki-taek (Song Kang-ho) and his family live in a half-basement apartment struggling to make ends meet. Stuck folding pizza boxes for extra money, the quartet are presented with a golden opportunity that they gladly accept. Ki-woo (Choi Woo-shik) is asked by a former schoolmate to take over his English tutoring lessons for a privileged family. As Ki-woo insinuates himself into the family, the Kims begin to manipulate their way in with his sister Ki-jung (Park So-dam) becoming an art tutor for the wealthy Park family’s daughter, Chung-sook (Jang Hye-jin) takes over as house maid, and Ki-taek becomes the chauffeur.

As the four carefully build their house of cards, an unexpected plea from the former housekeeper (Lee Jung-eun) starts the slow unraveling of the Kim family plans, which are further complicated by a chance rain storm. Everything slowly begins to collapse as the Kims and the Parks suffer one incident after another leading towards the chaotic and refreshing conclusion of the film.

While Bong has been working tirelessly as a well respected genre director, his films have always tackled unusual topics that are easily accessible. The Host was a popular horror project while Snowpiercer was a startling sci-fi take on the climate change crisis. Both were well regarded by American audiences who were fans of those particular genres. This film lays bare not only his unique perspective on freedom, wealth inequality, and other heady topics, it also presents a rather straight forward tale of a family of con artists who cannot predict every unforeseen circumstance that might bring their house of cards tumbling down.

Bong is a world class director, a case he’s made numerous times over the years including with the two aforementioned genre films as well as breakthrough production Memories of Murder, critically acclaimed drama Mother, and underappreciated action-adventure Okja. His astute appreciation of symbolism (such as the staircase motif he employs in this film in similar ways to Alfred Hitchcock’s methods) and eye for composition, structure, balance, and audience engagement have put him on the map as a director worth keeping an eye on.

With strong performances from the entire cast, and a compelling narrative about the lengths to which the poor will go to survive, the naive expectations of the rich, and the gap between the two, even those who haven’t previously been impressed by Bong’s work should finally stand up and take notice of one of modern cinema’s most vital voices.

Review Written

March 20, 2020

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