I am on one heck of a narrow tight rope here, discussing Parasite. This is a movie that deserves to be seen cold: very little foreknowledge going in is essential. It’s not every day you travel an hour to the movie theater, pay over twice the amount of the ticket for parking (thank you Chicago), only to see a two hour movie from South Korea.
It was worth every cent.
For the plot, I will tread as lightly as possible (there will be no spoilers, but I would not at all blame you for stopping at this point in the review, only to return after seeing the film.) Set in modern day South Korea, we meet the Kim family, living in a run-down basement as they are all scraping by to survive. The father Ki -taek (Kang-ho Song) is flawed but loyal to his wife Chung-sook (Hye-jin Jang), and supportive of his (somewhat) kind hearted son Ki-woo (Woo-sik Choi) and daughter Ki-Jung (So-dam Park), who is truly street smart to say the least.
The family finds themselves soon in the company of a much weathier family, the Parks, also a family of four. The wife Yeon-kyo (Yeo-jeong Jo) is simple (to say the least) but kind, as she looks over her teenage daughter Da-hye (Ji-So Jung) and her son Da-Song (Hyun-jun Jung) while her husband Dong-ik (Sun-kyun Lee) is at work.
The true star of the film, without question, is director Bong Joon Ho (who also wrote the film). If you have not heard the name before, get used to the name now. I admit I have only seen two of his other films (I guess I am late to the party): 2013’s Snowpiercer (with the MCU’s Chris Evans) and 2017’s Okja. The plan to see many more of his films is cemented in my mind, and I would hope in others’ as well (Okja is a Netflix original and Snowpiercer is streaming on the service at the moment as well).
All three films talk a good amount about the clashing of class in society to one degree or another. I have virtually no knowledge at all when it comes to the economy of South Korea, but I am also sure that is not necessary. We all have been guilty to a certain extent of being guilty of coveting our neighbor, be it for money (the root of all evil) or other things . What is great about the characters of Parasite is that there is no real sense of who is “good” and “bad”. Virtually all the characters are, in a sense, very gray.
Parents, the film is rated R, and for good reason. There is a good amount of swearing and some violence. There is also a scene of sexual content (very brief nudity) with two character lying on a couch that lasts about two or three minutes. Trust the rating on this one.
A few months ago, during my review of Once upon a time…in Hollywood, I mentioned how Quentin Tarantino is one of the few filmmakers today who can truly surprise me, giving me the truly unexpected. Bong Joon Ho (who Tarantino has said he is a big fan of) can now be added to the list. Parasite is more than just a thriller. It has plenty shares of laughs (sometimes out loud), wonderful performances (in particular Kang-ho Song and Yeo-jeong Jo), stellar set design (I am bewildered to have found out the locations were made for the film and are not actually legitimate places), and thought provoking to the core.
This is clearly one of the best films of 2019, and anyone who calls themselves a cinephile needs to seek it out.