With the words, "And the Oscar goes to," "Parasite" pulled off the upset of the decade. Beating out heavy favorite "1917," it became the first foreign-language film to take home the Best Picture award.
“Parasite” is a twisty thriller that follows the Kims, a poor family living in South Korea. After a rare instance of good fortune, Ki-woo (Choi Woo-shik), the son, begins working for the Parks, a much wealthier family. In desperate need of cash, the Kims hatch a brilliant plan to con the rich family, eventually weaseling their way into the Park’s employment. From there, the film unfolds into a dark but wildly entertaining look at class division.
It’s an unpredictable film from start to finish thanks to writer and director Bong Joon-ho. Bong, who also crafted the undervalued masterpieces “Snowpiercer” and “Memories of Murder,” expertly keeps viewers on their toes.
The pacing is a little slow at the beginning, but once it gets going, the film never lets up hitting the audience with twists galore. The film is also injected with a surprising amount of dark humor. A character’s allergy to peach fuzz leads to some gut-busting scenes.
Bong also gets great performances from all his actors. The film is more of an ensemble piece with no main character, but everyone does their jobs well. Although, if there is a standout, it’s veteran Korean actor Kang-ho Song. He plays the dad in the Kim family and is absolutely hilarious during the film’s best scene, a montage marking the end of the first act.
However, what really sets this film apart is what’s below the surface. “It’s so metaphorical” is a phrase repeated by Ki-woo. It’s played for laughs, but it hints at something more. The literal battle between the Parks and the Kims is also a metaphorical battle of upper class versus lower class.
There are many indicators of this sprinkled all throughout “Parasite.” For one, the Kims live in a basement and the Parks live on a hill, indicating their social status. The Kims literally have to climb up to reach the Park’s house. The cinematography also demonstrates this division. There are often objects or lines in the frame separating the two families portraying the impossibility of “crossing the line” from poverty to wealth.
That being said, the message isn’t simply that rich people are evil. One thing the film does really well is making both families sympathetic yet flawed. The Parks are a loving family, but for the most part, they separate themselves from the poor and are repulsed by their smell. The Kims, while also shown caring towards one another, often act in very selfish ways. They completely ignore others in need around them. Neither family takes the time to look past themselves and their own self-interests.
While “Parasite” is deep and culturally relevant, it’s also just a fun movie. That’s a tightrope few can walk. Don’t let the subtitles scare you off; go see it as soon as possible!
“Parasite” - 4.5/5