It’s not very often that a foreign-language movie comes on to the scene and blows the doors off its Hollywood competition. The black comedy/thriller ‘Parasite’ does just that, joining the ranks of films like ‘City of God’, ‘Roma’ and more. For those of you familiar with it’s director, Bong Joon-ho (‘Snowpiercer’, ‘The Host’, ‘Okja’ and ‘Memories of Murder’), I’m very happy to say that I think this is his best work. He maxed out the meter of every metric you could possibly analyze a film in and then some. I’m giving it a 100/100, a rating I’ve never given out since we started the podcast a few years ago.
While it just won the Palme d’Or at Cannes, the film still doesn’t have a ton of exposure here yet. So for those of you that haven’t watched the trailer, here is the IMDB description: “All unemployed, Ki-taek’s family takes peculiar interest in the wealthy and glamorous Parks for their livelihood until they get entangled in an unexpected incident.” This is a painfully base description, but I’ll go a little deeper (still no spoilers) on it now. For those of you that want to go into it with a totally blank slate, stop reading now.
The Kim family are essentially broke losers. They live in a basement apartment at the bottom of a hill in a big city, scrounging together whatever money they can. Kevin, their son, cons his way into a job as a tutor with the ultra-wealthy Park family through the recommendation of a friend. Mrs. Park is a very simple and overly-trusting housewife and Kevin manipulates her into gradually firing the existing house-staff and unknowingly hiring his sister, father and mother for the well-paying jobs. The Kims live, as the title suggests, like a parasite in the Park family home.
Bong starts you through the rough and gross world of the Kims, who you initially latch onto as the protagonists. As the Park family are introduced, he makes you change key to now be on their side. This isn’t necessarily due to the actions of the family, but more so due to the aesthetic of the Park home and their lifestyle. Our brains are hardwired to look at something like a post century modern home and associate it with money, beauty, fame etc. In truth, as the film progresses, you realize that neither of the families are the good guys. The Parks are holier-than-thou, frequently bashing on the poor despite the fact that their entire lifestyle is made possible by the labor of their staff. The Kims are endearing at first, but also hypocritical as they step on fellow poor people to climb the social ladder.
One of the best aspects of the movie is that you don’t realize the commentary on class is happening because it is so god damn entertaining. The cast is perfect down to the minutiae, but I was particularly impressed with the performance of Kang-ho Song, who frequently works with Bong. He plays the Kim family father, and does a great job showing the struggle of a man trying to reconcile doing something morally wrong with simply trying to live. Bong shot the movie with an expertise that is hard to measure. You go down…down….downhill to get to the slum-world of the Kims, while going uphill constantly to the polished and proper world of the Parks. The Kim’s world is uneven and messy while the Park’s is perfectly framed and exquisite in every way.
Bong also paces the film so that you are constantly trying to find an ethical center. After the first act, the next two begin a downhill ride where everything hangs on an incredibly suspenseful thread. So while you’re still trying to find the aforementioned ethical center, the plot is slowly unraveling into a devastating finish. The film also earns it’s dual-genre of black comedy and thriller. There is laugh-out-loud humor throughout, along with crafty moments that make you ooooooh and ahhhhh. That is mitigated by some moments that pull the rug out from beneath the audience, keeping you at the edge of your seat as the schemers plot comes crashing back down to earth.
I can’t understate how incredible this final act is. You’ll be surprised, confused, sad and most of all astounded. Like I said, the entire movie is a vain attempt by the audience to latch on to something or someone to root for, which makes the ending all the more impactful. You realize there wasn’t any particular person as so much a system to blame. I wish I could say more, but we will give it a full spoiler review on LCB when the movie is released here in October.
Overall, ‘Parasite’ is simply a masterpiece. It’s perfect in every technical category while making a subtle, yet loud point. As far as Oscar season goes, it deserves to be nominated for best picture (and win in my opinion). I’d stake my life on it winning best international movie, and it should be nominated for best directing and cinematography as well. Bong Joon-ho, come on the pod!!!!! Don’t forget to subscribe to Lights, Camera, Pod,follow us on Twitter, follow us on Instagram and join in on the conversation on our Reddit.