WARNING: This review contains spoilers for Parasite, as it’s one of those films that’s difficult to really talk about without spoiling. Read at your own risk! 
Ever since the start of last decade, films that have satirized and commented on the current state of wealth inequality and classism have been released left and right. Sorry to Bother You and Us are popular recent ones, and while the themes they’re tackling are real, they hit you over the head with them just a bit too much. You understand what they’re trying to say, but the message ends up getting muddled in the actual story of the movie. It’s not often when social satire has a lot to say, but also says it so clearly with a clear voice and balance. 
Parasite follows the unemployed Kim family, led by patriarch Ki-taek (Song Kang-ho), living in the slums of South Korea. His son, Ki-woo (Choi Woo-shik), poses as a college student and a gets a job tutoring Da-hye (Jeong Ji-so), the daughter of the incredibly wealthy Park family. Realizing the Park’s employ a driver, a housekeeper, and require a therapist for their young son, the Kim’s infiltrate the family and manipulate themselves into the jobs through underhanded, nefarious means. One of those ways is poisoning the housekeeper Moon-gwang (Lee Jung-eun), using her peach allergy, and getting her relieved of her duties. However, Moon-gwang wasn’t just a housekeeper, as it turns out she has a husband, Geun-se (Park Geun-rok), who has lived in tunnels underneath the Park home for years. When Moon-gwang finds out the Kim’s are all related, she and Geun-se blackmail the Kim’s, which starts a violent conflict between the two distressed families. 
As you can see, the Kim family is constantly scheming here, but what makes the family’s constant scheming so deviously entertaining is that they really feel like a demented family. When you see how the parents live their lives, you can tell how it would easily rub off on the kids. These people don’t care about anybody else but themselves, but it’s hard to hate them, because they’re all just so much fun. I mean, they’re technically also our protagonists, so you’re supposed to sympathize in some way, and the sympathy was there. Seeing this dirt-poor family be constantly screwed over by the system around them is depressing, but it of course doesn’t excuse poisoning people or tying them up to hold them captive. You know from the get-go that the Kim’s are a superficial, selfish family who will do whatever they need to get what they want. It’s the mid-story twist that reveals that former maid Moon-gwang has been caring for her husband Geun-sae, who has been secretly living in a tunnel system underneath the Park’s home, where the Kim’s show their true colors. The Kim’s feel bitter and hopeless due to their impoverished lifestyle and resent the rich, but they have no sympathy for Moon-gwang and Geun-sae, who are worse off because they don’t have a home at all. In order to prevent them from coming up to the house and ruining their facade, the Kim’s keep them trapped down there, tied up and with the exit blocked. They hate that others above them have been keeping them down for so long, but clearly don’t care if others are beneath them. 
You can’t have a family without the members, and you can’t have those members without a cast, and you couldn’t have found a better cast anywhere, and that goes for both families. The Kim’s are a family that truly deserve each other, as they’re all horrible people, but clearly have a familial connection and affection for one another. The whole family interacts in realistic ways that are different than how the parents, or brother and sister talk to each other. You can tell they’re all on the same intelligence level, where they play off each other well and listen to each other’s ideas, all coming up with brilliant schemes to infiltrate the Park’s and keep Moon-gwang and Geun-sae from revealing their secret of being related. They also naturally play off each other when they’re acting like they’re not related while working, where there’s no communication with words, but a lot being said. The Kim’s all grow close with their respective Park employers, but you can see that they really don’t care about them at all. They’re simply means to an end and they see no problem deceiving the Park’s if they’re comfortable and happy. 
In contrast, the Park’s are quite benevolent and selfless. They don’t want to fire their driver, but when they do, they lie about the reason to save him from embarrassment. They give the Moon-gwang a second chance after her first allergic reaction, but then realizing they need to fire her after the Kim’s poison her again. The Park’s are obviously privileged people, but ones who don’t let that privilege corrupt them. Unfortunately, their privilege does shelter them from the outside world, where they don’t really understand the plight that other families go through, such as the Kim’s. That doesn’t necessarily make them bad people, as they take care of their employees, love their children, and the husband and wife genuinely love each other. The Kim’s are certainly bad people, but is it because of their lack of privilege that they’re this way, or would privilege even make a difference? It seems not, considering how they treat Moon-gwang and Geun-sae. It’s the best kind of social satire, where it doesn’t take sides. It just shows it how it is. The acting from everybody, literally across the board, is stellar, so it would take a book to talk about how amazing their performances all are. That’s the absolute least I can say. 
The writing is dense across the board, from the characters, to the plot, to the themes, and these are all reinforced into the superb direction. Writer/director Bong Joon-ho captures every feeling of the characters and the themes they’re supposed to represent at that moment in the film. He frames shots and moves the camera to build incredible tension, with many moments throughout making me and more and more anxious as to what was going to happen next. There are genuine thrills, but it’s also hilarious, with dark comedy and satire abound. Then it snaps to a legitimately dramatic scene between two characters, but Bong handles those frequent tone shifts and combinations with the steady hand of a heart surgeon. I went from laughing, to tense, to engrossed, but it never felt awkward, like everything is part of this movie’s world and story. The plot twists kept the plot intriguing, which was no doubt a factor into the film’s pacing, with the twists, performances, and perfect tonal balance keeping it consistently entertaining. I couldn’t get over the editing, with amazing match cuts and scene transitions, as well as the editing during the montages, sometimes flashing between past and present. The ending does feel a teeny bit out of nowhere, especially with how much coincidence leads up to it, but it never stopped being thrilling. Could also be the fact that Jung Jae-il’s chilling score never let the tension drift away.  
Parasite is one of those “complete package” type of films. The directing, writing, acting, cinematography, score, editing, production design, costumes, and everything else were all impeccable in order to bring us this unique cinematic experience. It has a story that takes you in so many directions that you don’t know what to expect, but you always know exactly what it’s trying to say. There have been dozens of social satires on wealth inequality and classism, but for now, and probably a long time, Parasite will reign supreme over them all. 

Leave a Reply

Connect Online