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Parasite Review

October 11, 2019 | Posted by Jeffrey Harris
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Parasite Review  

Directed By: Bong Joon-ho
Written By: Bong Joon-ho, Han Jin-won
Runtime: 132 minutes
MPAA Rating: Rated R

Choi Woo-sik – Kim Ki-woo
Kang-ho Song – Kim Ki-taek
Park So-dam – Kim Ki-jung
Jang Hye-jin – Kim Chong-sook
Jo Yeo-jeong – Park Yeon-kyo
Jung Ziso – Park Da-Hye
Lee Sun-kyun – Park Dong-ik
Jung Hyun-jun – Park Da-song
Lee Jeong-eun – Moon-gwang
Park Seo-joon – Min

The latest film for Snowpiercer director Bong Joon-ho, Parasite, might very well be his best film to date. Parasite is a thought-provoking film that’s part dark comedy, part family drama and part thriller. It’s not really a singular genre film, but all these elements complement each other to deliver a surprisingly intense and shocking cinematic experience.

Meet the Kim family, a down-on-their-luck, destitute family of four. Living in an impoverished basement in a South Korean slum, they are forced to glum off of other people’s WiFi networks and take menial side jobs folding pizza boxes to bring in a pittance of money. The family’s eldest son, Ki-woo (Choi), failed to make it into university, but what he lacks in book smarts, he makes up for in street smarts. He’s a natural con artist with the gift of gab. An opportunity soon falls into Ki-woo’s lap in the form of a job recommendation. His best friend, Min (Park Seo-joon), is traveling abroad and wants Ki-woo to take over tutoring one of his well-to-do teen students, Park Da-hye (Jung). Min-Hyuk has a romantic interest in the high-school sophomore Da-Hye, and basically wants Ki-woo to watch over her and keep away potential suitors while he’s abroad. Min-Hyuk’s master plan is to start dating Da-hye when she enters university.

Min-Hyuk’s trust in a scam artist like Ki-woo is probably the biggest mistake of his life. With the help of his sister Ki-jung’s (Park So-dam) exceptional forgery skills, Ki-woo is easily able to maneuver himself into the rich, well-to-do Park household as the new English tutor for Da-hye. Da-hye’s mother, Mrs. Park (Jo Yeo-jeong), is a flighty, snooty simp. She makes for an easy mark for the Kim family to assert themselves into the lives of the Park homestead.

After Ki-woo hatches a master plan, he’s able to manipulate Ki-jung into the Park home as the art tutor for the Park’s youngest child, Da-song (Jung Hyun-joon). Next up, the kids trick the Park family patriarch, (Lee Sun-kyun), to fire his driver and hire their dad Ki-taek (Song Kang-ho). After that, it’s the family housekeeper, Moon-gwang (Lee Jeong-eun), who gets ousted and replaced by the Kim kids’ mother, Chung-sook (Jang Hye-jin). However, Ki-woo’s carefully layered plan is nothing more than a house of cards, and a dark secret within the Park household threatens to shatter the Kim’s ticket to money and luxury.

Parasite is a brilliantly shot movie. It’s very much a product of its country of origin. As a result, its style is both unique and refreshing when compared to Hollywood films. It’s darkly comedic, but it’s not exactly an irreverent comedy. At other times, the film is darkly tragic and surprisingly poignant.

The lengths to which the Kim family goes in order to con and manipulate the Park family are both shocking, and at times, borderline detestable. The one thing that keeps the Kim family from being outright unlikable is their true familial bond. The Kim family is comprised of down-and-out scoundrels, and yet, they still love, respect and appreciate each other. Meanwhile, the white-collar Park family members are self-absorbed, obsessed with their status, image and wealth, and they appear to lack genuine love for one another. If anything, it appears that their wealth and status has made them soft and gullible. The Parks look down at others of a lower social standing. It’s evident that while material wealth might bring certain comforts and convenience, it doesn’t bring true love or happiness.

This is a remarkable film about the rich vs. the poor and the dynamics therein. While the Parks are generally the protagonists of the story, they are not good people. One imagines if Ki-woo, who comes off as quite brilliant, would likely be better served investing his talents into more legitimate pursuits. His sister, Ki-jung, is equally brilliant and a gifted graphic artist. It’s bizarre that these two couldn’t apply themselves in school or make it into university. Perhaps that’s either a flaw in the storytelling or commentary on the South Korean academic system.

The performances of the main cast are impeccably performed. Song Kang-ho, as Kim Ki-taek, really steals the show with some surprisingly dramatic and bittersweet moments. While Ki-woo is the basic protagonist of Parasite, Ki-taek is really the heart and soul of the movie. The second and third acts feature plot twists that are both surprising and shockingly satisfying. They are twists the audience will not see coming, but they make complete and total sense. Those are the best kind of cinematic “gotcha” moments.

Bong Joon-ho and cinematographer Hong Kyung-pyo construct some beautiful imagery. The film is wonderfully shot. The shots are very straightforward, crisp and clear, yet contain all sorts of compelling imagery. The third act also features some quick, surprising, shocking bits of violence and gore that are rather Tarantino-esque. Parasite pulls no punches in terms of its visuals and narratives.

While many are throwing around the word “masterpiece” for this film, it might be premature to call it that. Bong Joon-ho has easily surpassed his previous work in Snowpiercer and created something that is darkly humorous, compelling, dramatic, poignant and bittersweet all the at the same time. Parasite is a true cinematic experience that will leave the audience with a lot to chew on during the ride home.

The final score: review Amazing
The 411
While it might be too early to call Parasite a masterpiece, it's definitely an impressive cinematic experience and a film that far surpasses some of Bong Joon-ho's previous work. The cinematography and performances of this film are exceptional. All the actors have impeccable timing and characters. The movie is a genre mashup that offers a subtle, thought provoking look at classism in a way that a Hollywood film would never be able to genuinely pull off with such sincere earnest.