Movie Review: Parasite

Parasite is a film about a lower class, unemployed family who gets the opportunity to con an affluent family into hiring all of them in different roles as they find ways to remove the current staff from their positions. Yet, not all is as it seems. The film stars Kang-ho Song, Yeo-jong Jo, So-dam Park, Woo-sik Choi, and Hye-jin Jang. It is co-written and directed by Bong Joon Ho (it is written like this in American publications, but he's credited as Joon-ho Bong on the film).

Bong Joon Ho may be a genius. His knack for visual storytelling is on full display in Parasite. From the first smooth camera pan down to the final frame, mirroring this shot, he's able, with the impeccable assistance of cinematographer Kyung-pyo Hong, to create an incredible atmosphere of deception and dynamic points of view. He knows exactly how to show the details of a character's understanding of new information. With the moves of his camera, he can show an entire train of thought and keep the tension of that moment intact.

There is a lot of tension in this film. The humor runs on a knife's edge and the drama is as taut as piano wire. Parasite balances our protagonist family's poverty against their mark's grand wealth. The one family finds every lazy, but brilliant way to make a buck while the other family spends money like it doesn't exist. Each is cheating the other in different ways, but through both we see the desperation capitalism creates.

The Kim family, who live in a cramped basement apartment are reaching out from below for something, anything to hit and change their luck. They want money. Money can solve their problems, can bring them happiness, all the cliches that those in power thrust on the poor in order to keep them working hard. The Park family, who live in a large home of grand heights above it all (and depths to which they are unaware), are reaching into the lower echelons to create the perfect life their wealth implies. They want status. Status and normalcy will make them wealthier in happiness than they ever dreamed of, all the things they were told would come with the money, but never will.

The distinction is never more prevalent than when the Parks return to their home after an aborted camping trip to nearly stumble upon the Kims in celebration of the incredible house they lucked into for the weekend. As the Kims plot their escape without being noticed, the Parks sit comfortably in their home, high above the torrential rain, flooding the city. The flood becomes ever more apparent as the Kims race back down to their level. They descend into the waterlogged basement to try and save any of their worldly possessions. They lose it all and yet are expected the next day for an impromptu and expensive affair for the youngest Park child's birthday. No one shines brighter in the chaos of those scenes than Kang-ho Song as Kim patriarch Ki-taek.

Kang-ho Song is an actor Bong Joon Ho and other Korean directors like Chan Wook Park flock to. Song's a chameleon, an actor with an incredible, expressive face. Song shines here not only because of his excellent comedic deadpan, but because of the incredible dignity he brings to Ki-taek, a man who has never been on top, who lists a resume twice that of a man his age would likely have. He defends the Parks to his family, up until the veneer of their kindness wears off and he hears what he's not meant to. His climactic scene is ever more earned because of the depth to which we've seen Song imbue on Ki-taek's journey.

I want to write so much more about this film, but it's best to go into it knowing the bare minimum. Once you get to the turn you will never see coming it will be worth it to see that story play out with fresh eyes. You won't believe where this story will take you until it grabs you by the arm and leads you into it. Don't let the use of subtitles or the cultural differences scare you away. You will recognize the characters and the motivations quickly enough. Let Parasite glom onto your brain, you'll be glad you did.

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