Parasite Review: A modern-day masterpiece that burrows into each viewer’s head and leaves its mark
Writer/director Bong Joon-ho has already gained some high claim from the industry and moviegoers alike with films like his fan-favorite monster movie The Host and his adaptation of the graphic novel Snowpiercer. However, with his newest film, Parasite, the Korean filmmakers reaches new heights of storytelling and characters that ultimately make it one of the best films of 2019.
The film follows the Kim family, a family that’s rich in street smarts and charisma, but incredibly poor in anything else. However, when the youngest of the family, Ki-woo (Woo-shik Choi), takes over as an English tutor for the daughter of the wealthy Park family – he gets an idea to turn his family’s fortune around. Because the family is so completely oblivious and easy to manipulate, Ki-woo finds a way to get each of his family members a paid position for the family. Their ruse works and the Kims begin to find happiness and financial success that they’ve never felt before and have only imagined. Heaven turns to hell, though, when the family becomes intertangled in some of the secrets that lie within the Park’s home and they are forced into a battle of dominance that could send them back to the penniless life they’ve known for too long.
Frankly, Parasite is really two films that encompass each half of the overall story with the first half being one of the best comedies of the year. The way that Joon-ho and fellow writer Jin Won Han include every hilarious detail to how the Kim family manages to get a strong foothold within the Park family is absolutely hilarious. Kang-ho delivers a masterfully comedic performance and feels completely in control of everything that’s happening on-screen. Not to mention, the obliviousness of the Park family is so funny to see that you’ll legitimately be as dumbfounded as Ki-woo is with how easy it seems and how much power his family has. Really in this first half, Joon-ho eases viewers into the bat-shit rollercoaster that no one sees coming with the second half of the film.
What Joon-ho brings with the second half keeps viewers on edge till the very end and delves into the film’s themes and thoughts about class. I’ll never forget the gasps that came from my theater and the palpable shock that come from when the film takes its monumental turn as the Kim discover a secret with the Park family’s home. While I won’t disclose what they find, it’s such a strong moment that changes the tone and the story that’s told. While the comedic elements are definitely still there and Ki-woo is still the driving force, there’s a dark battle for dominance and truth that unfolds that elevates the entire film. The tension and stakes become much higher, there’s a deep care for the Kim family that develops because of how they open up about how much their new lives matter to them, and things escalate so rapidly, especially in the film’s finale, that you can never catch your breath.
With this turn also comes some incredible thoughts and feelings about class and how we understand those on opposite sides of the class system. Neither the cunny Kim family or the oblivious Park family can be underestimated or pinned down because of where they are in life and Joon-ho perfectly displays this as the film shifts tones. The film also tackles the idea of ambition that’s lost within the Kim’s patriarch, Ki-taek (Kang-ho Song), and how it influences us to strive for things through the easiest and, at times, most underhanded ways possible. Kang-ho delivers a powerhouse performance throughout the film that’s easily one of the best of year and I’ll be definitely rooting for him, and really anyone in this film, to win every award possible. The entire second half is definitely his arc that embodies the film’s message about earning through hard work and never losing your ambition and drive.
It’s a story that sinks into its viewer’s head and stays put to keep you thinking. Even after I saw it, it didn’t fully hit me how strong the Kim’s story resonated with me. However, with more time I can’t help but still think about the final moments of the film and how Joon-ho has carefully crafted a narrative that really makes you think and that resembles the mindset and lives that many people live. Right to the bitter end, you find yourself on a rollercoaster of emotions and in a film that’s due to become a true classic.
If you needed anymore proof that Joon-ho is a master of his craft or are just looking to see what he’s all about, Parasite is a great place to start and will undoubtedly make any viewer believe in the writer/director’s talent. It’s definitely a surefire must-see and easily finding a spot in my top films for year. Parasite is really unlike anything else you’ve seen in theaters and is the kind of film you want to root for when awards season comes around.
Recently got this in the UK. My review is up if you fancy comparing. Quite a few films this reminded me of.