Knowing nothing about the plot prior, I was curious to the reasons why Parasite won the coveted Palm D'or at the Cannes film festival, but the reason's why you will love it won't hit you till much later. This is a movie that lingers long after. It begins in the home of the Kim family, living in a dingy apartment that is below the alley of the poor side of Korea. The home is lead by father Ki-taek (Song Kang-ho), mother Chung-sook (Jang Hye-jin), son Ki-woo (Choi Woo-sik), daughter Ki-jung (Park So-dam), and they live the best they can to get by. This involves folding pizza boxes for cash, cramming their bodies into the corners of a room to steal wi-fi from the local cafe, and leaving the windows open to get free fumigation to rid of any insect problems. Their spirits are not broken, but their bank accounts are, looking for any way they can earn extra cash, any way they could change their fortune for the better.
Ki-woo's friend Min (Park Seo-joon) visits back from school, bringing a big blessed rock which belonged to his recently deceased grandfather, and an opportunity for Ki-woo to make money as a tutor for a teenage girl named Da-hye Park. Changing his name to Kevin for the role, Ki-woo must convince mother Yeon-kyo Park (a fantastic performance from Jo Yeo-jeong) that he's the one for the job, a task that is not too difficult, considering Da-hye is attracted to Kevin, while mothers aloof personality leads to gullible trust. The first part is getting employed at this wealthy home, then Ki-woo convinces the Mrs. that his friend “Jessica” can teach Art Therapy for her son Da-song. Jessica uses her cunning ways to have Mr. Park fire his personal driver and eventually removal of the house keeper gets the whole family working under one roof, all in service of the Parks, in the beautiful lap of luxury.
Where Parasite twists and turns later in the film is not for me to tell you, but what is fine for me to talk about are the multiple themes and layers at work. Bong and his co-writer Han Jin-won, not only set the stage, they let us bask in all its glory. The home of the Parks is a fortress of pristine architecture, with cinematography from Kyung-pyo Hong that frames every shot as if we were looking at a photo-realistic painting. The contrast from the Kim's home to the Park's could be an entirely separate piece, about how the wealthy live in pristine quarters with the help of the poor, and the poor must swallow their pride, living in filth. Parasite is a constant moral quandary, where we question what is right or wrong. Audiences will need to decide if it's okay to lie, cheat, steal, when you're poor and you can't catch a break? Must the rich live off the backs of the poor? Don't the wealthy have enough already? As the Kim's shift from middle class to high class living, does it really change them? Or are they still just looked down upon by the rich?
That's why Parasite is a film worthy of multiple viewings as well. The performances from Choi Woo-sik and Song Kang-ho are constantly good, never feeling like acting is being done, just living in the moments, a father and son still searching for their place. That's why the plot, as extreme as it may be, the themes, and human reactions are all recognizable. It reminded me of Jordan Peele's SXSW hit Us, a movie that dealt with humans facing the ugly side of themselves. Parasite fits in that mold, as a story that is a metaphor for wealth and the class systems, but also a mirror placed on the people we have become. It's also just an extremely original film, often comical, uplifting, and will even leave you feeling a bit melancholy. This is everything that we have become as a society and more. Bong Joon-ho knows that, he just wants us to realize it before it's too late. Run to go see Parasite or you might be stepped over.
Written by: Leo Brady
STARRING: SONG KANG-HO; CHOI WOO-SIK; PARK SO-DAM; JO YEO-JEONG; LEE JEONG-EUN
DIRECTED BY: BONG JOON-HO
AMovieGuy.com's RATING: 4 STARS (Out of 4)
Parasite is about the levels of life. Like a video game, we go through the process, trying to reach the next chapter, and for some of us, we are born behind everyone else, up against those who automatically go straight to the final boss. The funny thing about Bong Joon Ho's newest film is that it's marketed as a thriller, but works as a comedy too. It is sneaky how good Parasite is, considering it is the perfect representation of our time, and it just gets better the more you think about it. The director of such memorable films as Snowpiercer, Memories of Murder, and most recently Okja, has made a film that not only feels made for humans to study, but a film to be passed down to generations. Not a single viewer won't relate to the plight of our characters in Parasite, a movie that pokes at the morality of humans, the constant struggle and striving for wealth in all of us, and survival of the fittest. Parasite digs into our consciousness and will be there for a long time. Bong Joon Ho has made a magnificent film.