So Bong Joon-ho, yeah? Guy’s been solid on virtually every entry. When The Host was released in 2006 I got talked into watching it by a friend and it was one of the best films of the year, funny and relevant and even frightening all at once. I hunted down Memories of Murder and found it even better, a bit darker but still containing the director’s sense of humor. He released two films with a Western flair, scoring a big critical success with Snowpiercer and then popping back up a few years later with the animal rights themed Okja. Bong Joon-ho is a director that peppers his wickedly humorous films with social commentary that sometimes works, sometimes doesn’t, but that is always worth watching.
I’ve enjoyed him for years, but I’ll state right now that Parasite is his best film. Seriously, no question on that. He’s achieved something in terms of pacing and tone that I don’t know if I can properly put into words. It’s not a movie about criminals, but there’s criminal activity. It’s not a comedy, but it’s hilarious. Instead, we get a mixture of these elements, compiling together a goofy story about family ties and classism that manages to be even better than the sum of its already significant parts. Hell, they finally gave him the Palme d’Or for this.
Parasite tells the story of an unemployed family, led by father Kim Ki-taek (Song Kang-ho) and mother Kim Choong-Sook (Jang Hye-jin). Sister Kim Ki-jung (Park So-dam) and son Kim Ki-woo (Choi Woo-shik) complete this highly resourceful group, helping them all half-ass putting pizza delivery boxes together and sweet-talking the company representative to get more money for less effort. They move around their basement home using other people’s wi-fi to check on side gigs via cellphone. Ki-Woo’s friend, Min-hyuk, convinces him to take over tutoring duties for the daughter of a wealthy family. See, Min-hyuk is in love with this girl and doesn’t want anyone else sniffing around her so he asks his friend to keep an eye on things. This quickly turns into a complicated series of events that sees the whole crew employed by the Parks, a wealthy family that comes to respect and even care about the Kims.
See, it begins as a comedic drama where we see the Kims slowly and methodically insert themselves into the Park family’s lives for profit gain. There are complications, as some of the family develops genuine ties with their employers and things get muddy.
And then…well…shit goes on a hard left turn. We won’t talk about what it is but this film went from being something I was really enjoying to being an entirely other thing that I enjoyed even more. It’s shocking, devious, and filled with enough physical comedy and perfect timing to leave you laughing out loud, even as your mouth hangs open in shock. Black comedy, blurred lines, and blood are guaranteed at this point and when Bong Joon-ho pays off he delivers a perfect finale that leaves you feeling for each member of both families. There’s no right answer, no one to truly root for. This nice, wealthy family has issues with privilege and snobbery while the Kims have genuine talent and intelligence but are so misguided that they can’t properly use it. By the end, you don’t know how to feel about anyone, but you mostly just pity the entire lot.
I’m not ready to call this a masterpiece since I need to see it a couple more times, but I do think it’s at least close and creates a unique experience that wound up being the best film I’ve seen this year. Hustle for it, drive for it, just see it. This is one of the few films I have to say can be for everyone. Just know that you’ll be checking beneath your bed when you get home, unsure as to who you’ll find.