I have one word that perfectly describes ‘Parasite’. Wow!
Starring Choi Woo-shik, Park So-dam, Song Kang-ho, Jang Hye-jin, Cho Yeo-jeong, Lee Sun-kyun, and Jeong Ji-so, ‘Parasite’ is a South Korean Black Comedy and the latest feature from legendary filmmaker Bong Joon-ho.
It follows the Kim family after one of them begins work as a tutor for the wealthy Park family. Eventually, they become entangled in the lives of the Park family and come up with a smart and tricky scheme.
It may sound vague, but that is all you need to know to go into this movie. If you had no idea about this movie before reading this, I beg you not to watch any of the trailers, hell, don’t even read a synopsis (even though you just read mine, sorry). Go into the movie blind, and I can assure you that you will go on one of the craziest movie rides of your life. Even if you don’t usually watch foreign movies, PLEASE watch this one. Why am I telling you to go and watch this without much information? Because I went in blind and now it’s my favourite movie of the year! Yeah, I’m serious.
Anyway, on with my review!
Firstly, ‘Parasite’ is a film that completely took me by surprise (if you couldn’t tell when reading the last paragraph). I heard great things about it going in, and the only thing I knew about it was that it was by one of my favourite foreign filmmakers of all time, Bong Joon-ho. I’ve been a fan of him ever since I saw his monster movie ‘The Host’ when I was younger. Once I heard his first Foreign Language movie (Parasite) in ten years was one of his best films yet, I knew I had to check it out. As it turns out, this is Bong Joon-ho at his best.
Acting as social satire, while also mixing the genres of a Comedy, Thriller, Horror, and Drama, ‘Parasite’ can be considered one of the more unique films of the decade. It feels as though it’s been a while since I’ve seen a movie that had me laughing out loud, to recoiling in horror within seconds (and I mean SECONDS). It sounds like it could be a mess, but as a director, Bong Joon-ho pulls off the mixing of genres perfectly. As the film progresses, the seamless transitions of styles are something that I was blown away by. It leads to an enjoyable time, and it’s a crazy experience upon first viewing.
When it comes to movies that decide to mix genres, it’s common in today’s world for it to feel tired and unnecessary. Yet ‘Parasite’ feels refreshing in a world packed to the brim with remakes and sequels. ‘Parasite’ is a little beast that you come across in the wild, and decide to take a chance on. It works well as a comedy, as an isolated thriller, and as a social satire. It doesn’t seem possible in our world, yet Bong Joon-ho has done it, and it’s a treat to witness.
I mentioned the term “social satire” before, and I feel as though I should slightly explore what I mean by this. When it comes to social satire, there are plenty of examples out there. From David Fincher’s ‘Fight Club’ to Neil Blomkamp’s ‘District 9’, and even more recent usually such as Jordan Peele’s ‘Get Out’ and ‘Us’ all have the essential elements of a satire. They all explore a modern-day concept in a unique, fun, and sometimes dark way. For ‘Parasite’, Bong Joon-ho explores the issue of class division, with the Kim family acting as the poor, and the Park family as the rich. When you see the Park family, they live in a house that seems like its own world. The house is surrounded by lushes trees, even though the house is in a suburban, concrete neighbourhood. The Park family lives in this house that seems to have more and more rooms than one can imagine, and they even have people working for them. Contrast this with the Kim family, who live below their neighbourhood. They have to worry about people who are peeing outside their windows, as it could flow into their house. Then you have the literal parasite style of the Kim family, who leech off the Park family to make a living, even if the Parks don’t know it. I could explore this more, but I would move into spoiler territory so that can wait until another day.
With all this talk about the satire elements and the brilliance of the genre-blending, you can tell that I love the screenplay from Bong Joon-ho and Han Jin Won. The dialogue is witty, intelligent, and it feels very natural. In a majority of movies with dysfunctional families like the Kims, they would come across silly and dumb. Here, however, Han Jin Won and Bong Joon-ho present them as a smart family who happens to be in a bad living situation. They all come across as likable and intelligent, which helps us understand where their motivations come from. Park So-dam’s character, Ki-jeong, is one of the smartest movie characters I’ve seen in years, and this is due to the script and her performance (which I’ll get onto shortly). The clever writing also results in a very unpredictable film that went in directions I never expected, and it could have quickly fallen into the trap of lazy writing. Here, however, it works wonderfully, and it’s one of the best scripts of the year.
The script also has some of the best characters of the decade, and they are brought to life with amazing performances. I firstly want to talk about my favourite performance in the movie, which is from Park So-dam. I feel like her performance isn’t getting talked about enough as for me, she stole every scene she was in. Her performance here as the most intelligent member among the Kim family is hilarious, and the way she fits in with the Park family is highly entertaining.
Choi Woo-shik is fantastic as Ki-woo, the “protagonist” of the film. We spend the most time with his character, and he gives off a likable personality that guides us through the pitch-black comedy of the film. This also leads me to Song Kang-ho, who gives yet another fantastic performance in his solid filmography. Song Kang-ho is a staple in the filmography of Bong Joon-ho, and here he gives one his best performances yet as the dad of the Kim family. He has some of the best comedic moments in the film, and I always got happy as soon as he came on screen.
Hyae Jin Chang is another excellent addition to the cast as the mother of the Kim family. Although she doesn’t get as much screentime as the other members of the family, she does a fantastic job, and I’m keen to see her in more films down the line.
Cho Yeo-jeong is also great, as is Lee Sun-kyun and Lee Jung-eun as other characters who get pulled into the main scheme of the Kim family. Everyone in ‘Parasite’ is terrific, and this is one of the best ensemble performances of the year.
Even with a sizeable cast of characters, the script and the performances allow all the unique and bizarre characters to shine in this darkly comedic, yet often bleak modern world. They all live in two distinct areas, and for once, they aren’t all stupid. These characters feel real, and it’s easy to imagine this happening in real life. So yeah, I think I’ve fallen in love with this movie.
Overall, Bong Joon-ho has crafted one of the most layered and entertaining pieces of satirical cinema of all time. Bong Joon-ho transports us into the lives of the Kim family as they unleash their inner parasites to attach themselves to the wealthy side of life, and it leads to one of the most exciting and thrilling trips you’ll ever experience. With incredible performances, stunning direction, and one of the smartest scripts in cinema history, ‘Parasite’ is the defining dark comedy of the decade, and it needs to be seen by everyone. Even if you usually don’t gravitate towards foreign language films, listen to me and give ‘Parasite’ a watch. You’ll thank me later.