Parasite (2019)

21 Nov

Smith’s Verdict: ****

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

I went into Bong Joon Ho’s “Parasite” as cold as possible. (And thankfully, the film’s trailer was vague enough.) I came out of it feeling like I had experienced something rather amazing. 

There were so many things in this funny, insightful, clever, ambitious story that I couldn’t see coming, and then by the end of it, I realize it was all inevitable. And it was masterfully done by a director whose work I’ve admired before (“Snowpiercer,” “Okja”)—“Parasite” is most definitely his magnum opus. 

“Parasite” is a darkly funny, totally insightful, intelligent social satire with so many narrative twists and turns that kept me on edge for a majority of its running time and (HYPERBOLE ALERT) made me very appreciative of the art of innovative cinema. This has always been Bong’s strength—even when we think we know where something is going when the rug has ALREADY been pulled out from under us, he always finds another way to keep us invested until the very end. 

I will be as spoiler-free as possible—as I mentioned, you should go into this one knowing as little as I did. I won’t even dig deep into the film’s setup aside from what’s in the trailer. Speaking of which, this is the story of two four-person families in South Korea. One family is super poor, the other super rich. (And as a clever touch to the setting, the rich live high up on a mountain and the poor live below the streets—wait until you see what can happen in a rainstorm.) Our main protagonists lie within the poor family, as the film opens by showing us the only spots available in their cramped basement home where the Wifi connection is strongest. Dad (Song Kang-ho) and Mom (Jang Hye-jin) are unemployed and not very motivated, but son Ki-Woo (Choi Woo-sik) is an ambitious go-getter and daughter Ki-jung (Park So-dam) is an aspiring con artist—both teens take their shots wherever they can and are very good at what they do. The next opportunity comes with Ki-Woo is hired as an English tutor for the wealthy, privileged Park family (the aforementioned rich family). His student is Da-hye (Jung Ji-so), the teenage daughter of Park Dong-ik (Lee Sun-kyun) and Yeon-kyo (Jo Yeo-jeong), whose common sense (or tact) don’t match their wealth. Ki-Woo is able to earn their trust, which leads to a complicated con. He’ll bring in Ki-jung as an “art therapist” for the odd, rambunctious little son of the family, and the family never has to know she’s related to Ki-Woo. (And all she knows about “art therapy” is from studying Google results, but damn if she doesn’t act like she knows exactly what she’s talking about!) So that leaves their parents—how to get them hired by the family for any purposes such as chauffeur and housekeeper…

OK, we have an interesting thing going on here, especially when the “have-nots” experience the perks of the “haves” like a family of this sort would. They even take time out to analyze the situation, such as how would the Park family act if they were as poor as this family? We get to know all members of both families—there’s even a quiet domestic drama unfolding underneath the surface of this seemingly happy rich married couple, as Dad tries to manipulate some answers out of Dong-ik. We get to know the prejudices between classes. We learn a few things that could be used for or against certain characters (there are some great clues here, looking back on the film after seeing it initially). All of that is interesting and intriguing. And then…

Whoa. Definitely didn’t see that coming. 

And from that point on, it’s an unpredictable series of twists and turns that grabbed me and wouldn’t let me go until it was done with me. As crazy as it is, it still feels real because the characters feel like real people, even when they do things that aren’t the best (or even morally sound) decisions. We’re with them when they go through one crazy situation after another and while I’m wondering how they’re going to get out of this, I’m also wondering how things could possibly get worse. Bong Joon Ho’s storytelling here is nothing less than creatively brilliant. 

“Parasite” is one of the best films of 2019 and one of the best films of the 2010s—the acting is excellent across the board, the directing is top-notch to say the least, the writing is brilliant with many different layers to it, the visual style is lovely, and the whole film overall just reminds me that there are gems like this hitting the screens that it would be a shame to miss. 

It’s good that even if I can’t get too deep into the story for a spoiler-free review, I can still get across how it affected me.

One Response to “Parasite (2019)”

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  1. Top 20 Films of the 2010s–#17 | Smith's Verdict - December 2, 2019

    […] is a tricky one for me. I saw Bong Joon Ho’s “Parasite” only once a couple of weeks ago, and I’ve had the rough draft of this decade-end […]

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