A tremendous victory at the Academy Awards is justified.
A poor family in South Korea begin set their sights on a wealthy family’s home, using their con artist skills to improve their everyday lives. But how far can it be pushed?
For many western audiences, Parasite will have come completely out of the blue. A Korean film scooping up not one golden Oscar statue, but four. And not just any four awards: Best Motion Picture Award, Best Achievement in Directing, Best Original Screenplay, and Best International Feature. That is an incredible feat, and not something the Academy is historically inclined to do; in fact this is a first.
One could go into a debate as to why this particular film, but it is preferable to look at the director behind it, the talented Bong Joon Ho. He has now written and directed at least four incredible movies that have seen global success: The Host, Snowpiercer, Okja, and now Parasite. So the praise now being levelled as his newest film is not surprising, but it is extremely rewarding to see him succeed in western critics’ eyes.
If you see Parasite and enjoy it, those three other films are highly recommended.
It is difficult to talk about the film without giving away a great deal of its intentions, and in fact going in knowing less is really more. The film is all things; it is a comedy, it is a socio-economical message, it is a black comedy, it is a thriller, it is a drama, and… infrequently, horrific. For all of these elements, it works harmoniously as a complete experience.
It is easy to imagine audiences thinking of Bong Joon Ho’s film as “Tarantino-esque”, in its pacing and its slow-boil intentions. But unlike Tarantino’s quick-witted and sledgehammer writing style, Parasite is often quite charming; with quirky and subtle characters who we immediately relate to without having their entire backstories read to us.
Most of the film takes place in two locations, the Kim family’s rundown basement dwelling (they are literally building flat-pack pizza boxes for a living), and the minimalist trappings of a state-of-the-art home made by a famous architect. There live the Parks, who’s young daughter is in need of a new English teacher. This news is raised to young Kim Ki-woo, who is trusted by the previous teacher – his friend – to take his place. This however doesn’t just lead to an affair, but also Ki-woo promoting his sister into the Park family’s home as an art teacher for their son. From there, everything escalates.
The first two acts of this film has a lot of fun moments. Watching this ragtag family from the city’s gutter hoodwink this rich and clueless family from right under their noses is quite the treat, and naturally fate seems intent on ruining it for them. The close-shaves they experience, almost losing their cool or being rumbled, is both tense and entertaining.
But as it continues, much as the film’s title eludes, the morality of the situation begins to settle in on the audience. If that wasn’t enough, there are more revelations to come.
The film is beautifully made. From the juxtaposition of the stately home and the decrepit underbelly of the city, to the way we are increasingly concerned with father Kim Ki-taek’s driving with him looking away from the road and our view becoming more and more obscured by the car’s interior. The performances are spotless across the board; everyone is excellent in their roles. There is a good sense of chemistry between the family members, be it the Parks or the Kims; which is critical, we need to like these people despite the actions they are taking. The writing depicts them fairly; we don’t have heroes or villains, you can see these people are from very different worlds but aren’t good/evil.
It is one of those films that has nothing wrong with it. Some might argue that it will not live up to the hype that the Academy has lain upon it, but had it not won all of those awards, it would still have flown high with the likes of Peele’s Us, or The Handmaiden or the original Oldboy from Chan-wook Park regardless.
Expect its fame to get the attention from a lot of bemused and confused western audiences, and hopefully Bong Joon Ho doesn’t lose his edge with this Hollywood attention! Parasite is a great little film.