Parasite, rated R (subtitled)
My wife Tammy and I have been watching Oscar nominated “Best Motion Picture” films that we had not already seen. We have watched The Irishman, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Marriage Story, and most recently the subtitled Parasite, which received six Oscar nominations. The film is directed and written by three-time Oscar nominee Bong Joon Ho (Parasite).
When we first meet the working-class Kim family – patriarch, Ki-taek, played by Kang-ho Song, his wife Chung-sook, played by Hye-jin Jang, his attractive young adult daughter, Ki-jung, played by So-dam Park, and his college-age son, Kim Ki-woo, played by Choi Woo-sik – they are living in a basement level apartment in the slums of a large South Korean city. Though they are poor, they have cell phones and are trying to use the WIFI from the apartment above them, because they can’t afford their own. Father Ki-taek’s businesses have gone under, and as a result, the family is poor and now make a small amount of money by folding pizza boxes for a local business, but they don’t do that very well. As they fold the boxes, they often see men urinating on the street just outside their apartment.
The family’s fortunes change when Ki-woo’s friend offers to recommend him as an English tutor for Park Da-hye, played by Jung Ziso, the high school sophomore daughter of the affluent Park family. The friend has been tutoring the girl but has to go out of the country for a while. Ki-woo’s friend likes the girl and plans to ask her out when he returns, and doesn’t want anyone he can’t trust tutoring her. Ki-woo isn’t qualified, so he has his sister forge some documents for him. Yeon-kyo (Mrs. Park), played by Jo Yeo-jeong agrees, and Ki-woo, now known as Kevin, begins tutoring Park Da-hye. Of course, they immediately fall for each other.
This leads to my favorite part of the film.
We see the Kim family as the con artists that they are. Kevin convinces the gullible Yeon-kyo that their young son needs an art tutor, which provides an opportunity for Kevin’s sister, now known as Jessica, with made up credentials, including studying at Illinois State University (my alma mater). Soon, they also find a way to discredit the current housekeeper Moon-gwang, played by Lee Jeong-eun and bring in Mom to do the job, as well as the chauffeur driver, and bring in Dad to handle that job.
When the Park family goes on a camping trip, the Kim family make themselves comfortable, enjoying their food and alcohol. All is going well on a stormy night, until the former housekeeper Moon-gwang shows up and reveals a secret. Then, due to the bad weather, the Park family decides to come home early. That’s when the film really takes an unexpected turn.
In some ways, this film reminded me of Jordan Peele’s film Get Out. Mr. Park often talks “crossing the line” with and about Ki-taek. He also notices a distinctive smell on him.
Themes in the film are classism, greed, deception, rich vs. poor, upstairs vs. downstairs, finding hope in the wrong things. Content concerns include a significant amount of adult language, violence, and a scene in which a married couple gets intimate on the couch, not knowing others are in the room.
The acting is good throughout, with a relatively small cast. Also of note is the cinematography by Kyung-pyo Hong.
Parasite is the story of the Kim and Park families – at opposite ends of the social and financial spectrum in South Korea. The film touches on a number of different genres – comedy, satire, horror, social commentary and thriller. It is a film that you’ll be talking about long after you see it. What is the symbolism of the rock? Also be sure to notice the many steps depicted in the film. But sadly, the film leaves the viewer (and the Kim family) with no hope. The Kim family seemed better off at the beginning of the film – poor, but enjoying being together as a family. What did you think?