Fantastic Fest Review: PARASITE A Wickedly Entertaining Examination Of Class
South Korean director Bong Joon-ho’s latest film, Parasite, is going to infect audiences in ways they can’t even begin to anticipate. This wickedly entertaining amalgam of comedy, thriller, and social drama with have you instantly enamored with the surgical precision of its unexpected unraveling.
Meet the Park Family: the picture of aspirational wealth. And the Kim Family, rich in street smarts but not much else. Be it chance or fate, these two houses are brought together and the Kims sense a golden opportunity. Soon, a symbiotic relationship forms between the two families, until they get entangled in an unexpected incident.
Parasite is to a viewer what a pot of slowly boiling water is to a frog; you don’t know what you’re in for until it’s right and front of you, and by that time, you’re cooked to death with the power of pure cinema. It instantly hooks you with its natural humor, compelling characters, and timely social themes, and it sinks its hooks deeper and deeper the more its blissfully surprising and exhilarating story unfolds. It effortlessly slides into different shapes, seamlessly inhabiting the body of different genres and flawlessly juggling tones, quietly ramping up the tension and atmosphere until it breaks in a delightful swerve that bars its teeth and reveals its savage intentions.
There's no question that if placed in the hands of a lesser filmmaker that Parasite could be a tonal jumble that quickly collapses inward — it is at times a con/heist film, a thriller, a satire, and a serious social drama with a dash of brutality — but Bong mixes tone and genre like a master chemist, and Parasite finds him at the top of his game. He maintains tight control and puts careful thought into each painstakingly arranged composition. He does an astounding job of not just setting up characters, but making the viewer spatially aware of the layout of the Park family house, which makes its back half sizzle with even more tension and intensity.
With an incredible production design team and the gorgeous cinematography from Kyung-pyo Hong (who’s responsible for terrific lensing in last year’s Burning), Parasite is a chic visual stunner that captivates with each frame. The sharp right angles of the Park’s pristine hillside home subtly reinforce the societal lines that segregate the social classes between characters, which are so clearly defined that they don’t even need to be seen — they can be easily sniffed out. The Park’s home stands in high contrast to the chaotic mess of wiring that jut out of the Kim’s poor neighborhood and their halfway underground apartment where they reside amongst the trash and stink bugs. As fantastic as the production is, much of Parasite’s success stems from the tightly woven script co-authored by Bong and Han Jin-won, which is not only cleverly constructed and full of lovely plot twists but ripe with social commentary that never feels superior or banal.
Honestly, the less you know about Parasite’s narrative the better off you’ll be, and we intend to preserve that as much as possible. Just know that it gives the viewer so much to think about (especially in its back half), and it’s undoubtedly a Bong Jong-ho film. Its classist leanings share similarities to other Bong films (particularly Snowpiercer and Okja), but it’s truly unlike anything he’s gifted us before, in that it doesn’t need to rely on budget or sci-fi for its narrative punch. Sure, there’s obvious symbolism to the film’s title, but there’s very little that’s allegorical about it. It’s grounded and firmly rooted in the real world, one which any viewer can easily recognize since we’re living it.
The film never ceases to amaze, even when you think you’re a step ahead — a feeling which is exclusive to its first half only. It flows like water, wasting no time and moving at such a rate that it’s impossible to be bored. And right when you think you’ve got it figured, it takes an unexpected turn and things become deliciously demented and surprisingly brutal, climaxing in a birthday party that you will not forget. Even better, amidst the tragedy and sadness Parasite creates, it maintains a humorous outlook with a keen eye on the irony, somehow ending on a note whose touch is both warming and deeply sad.
Parasite solidifies Bong as a masterclass filmmaker, and It absolutely matches up to the hype. It’s a modern masterpiece and one of the finest films to come out in the last decade. It presents us with a lot of characters that we can see ourselves in and a lot of things to chew over as it glides through its story like a hot knife in butter. It’s about the systems we are born into and how we allow them to define us; it’s about the poor crying out for help amongst the ignorance of the wealthy; it’s about the poor hurting the poor as they scheme and plot about how they’ll crawl out of their situation — and of course so much more.
Recommendation: This is without a doubt one of the finest films you’ll see all year. Absolutely go see this on the big screen and prepare yourself to be blown away.
Rating: 5 free wifi connections outta 5.
What do you think? Share your thoughts and feelings in the comments section below, and as always remember to viddy well!