Review: Bong Joon-ho’s “Parasite” is many things at once, but it never sacrifices its own brilliance
Bong Joon-Ho’s “Parasite” has been often described as an allegory, and boy does it to live up to that standard — and then some.
From the very first frame, the visuals are striking in their depiction of Korean social class contradiction. The opening scene shows the poverty-stricken Kim family — itself an image not seen much in the current saturation of K-dramas — that viewers are instantly thrown in a sensory overload of destitution. A few frames later, in the wealthy Park family’s upper-class mansion, the set pieces and cinematography take a sharp detour: everything is in strict, suffocating grey, all straight lines and wide angles as opposed to the earlier cramped, character-focused shots.
It’s easy — and if I’m honest, fun — to laugh at the pure schadenfreude and irony of the poor capitalizing on the rich, but “Parasite” is much more than the street-smart underdogs outsmarting the well-educated upper-crust, as the underprivileged Kims quite literally take over the Park household in a clever mixture of scheming and fraud. Although it begins as such, a sudden tonal shift halfway through is what sets the rest of the film in motion. The Kims and the Parks collide, and well-kept secrets come out of the basement — literally. It is in the final act that all the dirt comes out to light, set against the youngest Park son’s garden birthday party. Chaos ensues in the sunlight-bathed, perfectly-trimmed lawn, but it is no longer of the light-hearted, slapstick kind that set up much of the first act. Suddenly, the characters who we rooted for in the beginning don’t seem so likable anymore, but manners and decency don’t matter much, when you’re constantly fighting to survive.
In all this, nothing holds the film together better than its stellar cast led by Song Kang-ho and Jang Hye-jin as husband and wife, and their two adult children played by Choi Woo-shik and Park So-dam. All four characters share the same dry, blunt humor and knack for deceit, as well as their loyalty and determination to one another as a family. Opposite them are the upper-class Parks played by Lee Sun-kyun, Jung Ji-so, Jung Hyun-joon, and Cho Yeo-jeong — who deserves special recognition for the perfect clueless timing and yet warm honesty in which she portrays Mrs. Park.
Somehow, “Parasite” all at once is a comedy, a heart-pounding thriller, sometimes even horror, and an allegory, without ever sacrificing any of those elements, and somehow still pulling off to be a brilliant film. Once or twice you may find yourself questioning the authenticity and absurdity of some of the acts, but ultimately, after all, there are few things more innately absurd than wealth disparity. In its penultimate scene, “Parasite” offers us a glimmer of hope, a chance of a brighter future for the Kim family, and yet, still, Bong Joon-ho ends with Kim Ki-taek in the gloom of the basement, abruptly reminding us of the grim reality.
Originally published at https://share.snippetmedia.com.