Combustible Celluloid
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With: Song Kang-ho, Jang Hye-jin, Choi Woo-shik, Park So-dam, Lee Sun-kyun, Cho Yeo-jeong, Jung Ji-so, Jung Hyun-joon, Lee Jung-eun, Park Myung-hoon
Written by: Bong Joon-ho, Han Jin-won
Directed by: Bong Joon-ho
MPAA Rating: R for language, some violence and sexual content
Language: Korean, with English subtitles
Running Time: 132
Date: 10/11/2019

Parasite (2019)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Rich Digging

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

South Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-ho already has an impeccable track record, but he has stepped up his game with this powerfully revealing social satire, half insanely funny, and half merely insane.

In Parasite, the Kim family — father Ki-taek (Song Kang-ho), mother Chung-sook (Hyae Jin Chang), daughter Ki-jung (Park So-dam), and son Ki-woo (Choi Woo-sik) — are all unemployed, folding pizza boxes in their dumpy basement-level apartment to earn a little cash. Through a friend, Ki-woo is given an opportunity to tutor the pretty Park Da-hye (Jung Ziso) the daughter of a wealthy family, despite not even being a student. Turning on the charm, he gets the job.

Then, he and his sister Ki-jung scheme a position for her, as an art therapist for the family's precocious youngest son. More scheming results in the firing of the family's driver and maid, providing jobs for Chung-sook and Ki-taek. Things are looking up at last for the Kims, until a bizarre secret turns everything totally sideways.

Certainly Parasite might feel uneven to some audiences because of its radical shifts in tone, from a clever comedy to a violent, dark tragedy, but it's more likely that Bong has executed everything as planned. Each insignificant detail, from the young boy Da-song's love of American Indians, to a peach allergy, and the Kim family's sad little half-basement apartment, has been planted for some specific, exacting reason.

Cleanly and slickly constructed, Parasite takes perverse pleasure in the scamming of the rich people during the leisurely and funny first half, and that pleasure is contagious. But when the second half comes, it's not only a narrative shock, but it also forces viewers to ask hard questions about why the first half had been so enjoyable.

In earlier films like The Host, Snowpiercer, and Okja, Bong slyly explored the impact humans have had on our environment, but in Parasite, he looks at an even bigger picture. He wonders why humans tend to look away from, or insulate themselves, from the troubles and suffering of others. In this movie, reaching the high ground is certainly desirable, but those occupying the low ground aren't going anywhere.

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