“Parasite”: Film Review

The class struggle is alive and well, it seems, and depicted with brilliant and explosively exuberant joie de vivre in director Bong Joon Ho’s black comedy.

Yet beware that joie de vivre. It bites. It’s a deadly antidote to the comforting torpor induced by much film-going, because it is so obviously not about the characters in this dark farce, but about you, the viewer, comfortable in your seat. For now. Imagine that Hitchcock and Losey had combined forces on “The Servant”, and ultimately, the Servant, it’s you. “Parasite” might well have been the result.

A wealthy and studious young man, with a great future ahead of him, visits an impoverished school friend at the family home. He has a promising deal, a tutoring job for a wealthy family, the Parks. He needs cover while he is abroad, and for unflattering reasons, hands over the baton. And a substantial chunk of rock – a talisman of sorts. The bearer of gifts is also a bearer of good luck, it seems.

Luck is exactly what the just appointed tutor and his family had been lacking.  Once losers, always losers? No longer so, it seems. Comedy scene by comedy scene, “Mission Impossible”-style, young man, then sister, mother and father inveigle themselves into the home of the wealthy Park family.  And what starts as a delightful comedy of manners in an exquisite modernist home replete with desirable features, modern comforts, and possibly some secrets, turns into well, a grotesque dark farce in a house that remains despite everything eminently desirable, still somehow a home, but also, frankly, a house of horrors. Yet it still seems more of a home than the interlopers’ home, a basement flat with such slivers of pavement-level window that it is at constant risk from passing drunks attempting to relieve themselves.

To say more about the momentous events in the Park home would be to reveal too many spoilers. But as events unfold, the questions multiply. Is being nice really a nice thing? And who is a parasite to whom, in this story? If you think it takes two to tango, you are in for a surprise.

“Parasite” is a finely written story, with dark yet funny twists and turns, seat-gripping suspense and source of repeated shocked disbelief and pained laughter, and it has such universal themes, that it is possible as a non-South Korean viewer to imagine that one is entirely in on the joke. This is not entirely the case. There are many subtle jokes that come to light in their own time. This is a film that bears repeated viewings, to draw out all its many delights.

Read our review of “Parasite – Black and White Edition” here.

Director Bong Joon Ho
Writers Bong Joon Ho Bong, Han Jin Won
DoP Hong Kyung Pyo
Cast Song Kang Ho, Jo Yeo Jeong, Park So Dam, Choi Woo Sik, Lee Sun Kyun

Interested in fabulously cinematic renditions of class warfare?  See The Servant on DVD or on Amazon Prime / Mubi.

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