Parasite is one of the highly buzzed and critically acclaimed movies of 2019. And while such movies are usually either not my cup of tea or not as great as everybody lauds them to be, i daresay that Parasite deserves all the praises it’s garnered.
In fact, it might have fallen under my radar had i not come across rave comments about it on my timeline. Some suggested us to just dive into it without looking it up online, but since going into a movie blind is impossible for me, i did read the synopsis and skim through some reviews. So, i was aware of Park Seo-joon’s cameo and his role in setting the ball running: introducing Kim Ki-woo (Choi Woo-shik) who lives in a cramped semi basement to the Park family who lives in a hill-top mansion.
“Kevin” manages to get the “young and simple” Madam’s (Jo Yeo-jeong) stamp of approval to take over as her teenage daughter’s English tutor through said recommendation and his unique teaching method. The wheels turn in his head upon hearing that she’s looking for an art tutor for the handful younger son, recalling this amazing yet quirky art teacher by the name of Jessica, who is none other than his younger sister Ki-jung (Park So-dam). She easily lands the job through her patronizing confidence and Google-derived art therapy knowledge.
But the timely references don’t stop there. The children are planning to get their parents installed at the lavish abode too, which requires craftier plotting since there are no openings for housekeeper and driver that they have to make one.
The deception game plan and stealth maneuver are so elaborate and smooth that it’s a wonder that they never dipped their toes into con business. Their role-playing is so convincing and immaculate! The schemes, however, are easily executed thanks to Madam’s gullibility. I could see the siblings get on her good side, but the coincidences happen too often to go over her head: that each of them happens to know a reputable, highly coveted someone to fill the void, who happens to be free despite their supposed sought-after status to take up the offer. The way they discredit the previous housekeeper Moon-gwang (Lee Jung-eun) is quite heavy handed to not raise an eyebrow.
I expected Mr. Park (Lee Sun-gyun) to be sharper, and while he kinda does with the panty incident, he barely bats an eyelash regarding the premium domestic service provider he never heard of.
That said, it’s interesting to watch the reverse dynamics presented here: that the rich are credulous, the poor are greedy, and the latter is exploiting the former. And this is the reason why it’s best to know as little as possible about the plot other than expecting the unexpected. Because guessing what’s coming is rather impossible. I knew the truth would be out and the consequences might be ugly, but i never thought it would spiral down into some sort of a survival game that ends up in tragedy.
(ending spoilers ahead)
The tone in the final third is nothing like the first two, yet it doesn’t feel jarring. The climax is also unanticipatedly bloody, but the way it’s filmed makes it half as horrifying as the gravity of the actual situation — as odd as this sentence sounds. That, however, is probably the scene that lingers in our mind or calls for a discussion: Do the perps have to go that far? Do the victims deserve to die? Do we have to sympathize with Dad’s (Song Kang-ho) living condition? Do we have to root for Ki-woo’s dream goal?
Because even if there are perps and victims, swindler and illegal dwellers, nobody qualifies as a true villain. Every main character is either flawed or ill-advised, that nobody is entirely likable. Yet, despite the questionable decisions made and insensitive remarks uttered, i can’t justifiably hate any of them. The Parks are by and large good wealthy people and nice employers; The Kims are efficient workers and decent human beings who are still concerned about the people they kicked out; Moon-gwang has her circumstances too, and her request that Mom (Jang Hye-jin) help her husband is a humble and sensible one. It’s hard to decide who’s right and wrong in this mess; but everything stems from The Kims’ greed to have every family member ’employed’ by The Parks, so the former shoulders most of the blame while the latter is the most unfortunate one.
I don’t think that’s the point of the story, but it’s surely thought provoking. Its runtime is on the longer side, but it completely captures my attention from start to finish with its gripping, thrilling, sometimes uncomfortable ride, owing to the clever script, stellar performances, dynamic directing, seamless editing, and effective scoring.
The tale of lower-class close-knit family making less than ideal decisions to survive reminds me of Shoplifters, which was the Parasite of 2018, but this movie is better paced with darker twists and more surreal ending. And at the end of it all, i was wondering who was this “parasite” referred to in the title? Was it the poor family leeching off neighbors’ WiFi who’s subsequently infiltrating Park household, those inhabiting the secret bunker living off the ground people’s utilities and fridge content, or the characters or story staying in our brain after the credit roll?
Director: Bong Joon-ho
Screenwriter: Bong Joon-ho, Han Jin-won
Production: Barunson E&A, 2019
Cast: Song Kang-ho, Jang Hye-jin, Choi Woo-shik, Park So-dam, Lee Sun-gyun, Jo Yeo-jeong, Jung Ji-so, Jung Hyun-joon, Lee Jung-eun, Park Myung-hoon
Genre: Dark comedy, Family thriller, K-movie