I have a friend who makes borderline militant efforts to never watch trailers, preferring to walk into whichever film it is as blind as possible hoping to be surprised by whatever he sees. In the past few years, I've made more efforts to follow his lead. For the latest film by Bong Joon-ho (The Host, Snowpiercer), I watched a brief video review that gave only minor hints to what happens in maybe the opening 10 minutes of the flick. The review, the director's past work and the fact that the film won the Palme d'Or at this year's Cannes Film Festival were all I needed to know. I was there. I'm gonna make an attempt to spoil as little as possible.
The opening scene of Parasite is fun and quirky. We see the Kim family going about their daily lives. The son is fumbling with his phone, trying to find a wi-fi signal to hop onto since the previous person he was leeching a signal off of had the gall to enable password protection. In the next scene, he and his sister, Ki-jung (Park So-dam) are tucked away in the most cramped of corners, taking advantage of the one weak signal they were able to locate throughout the household.
The parents Ki-taek (Kang-ho Song) and Chung-sook (Hyae Jin Chang), with the help of the family, are folding pizza boxes as fast as they can for a sliver of extra scratch while watching their neighbor get fumigated for bugs. Their progress is only briefly impeded by the fumes seeping into their below ground home but, with their shirts draped over their noses, they complete the job. This scene, among many others in the first hour of Parasite range from darkly comic to bubbly fun. In the moment, when LOLing occurs, it's pretty fun. It's when the credits role that those scenes take on a more sad and sinister vibe.
Plot details from here on will be minimal/vague. So here goes: When the son, Ki-woo (Woo-sik Choi), starts tutoring the daughter of the extremely well-to-do Park family, he realizes that there is potential for mo' money and less problems. From there a symbiotic (maybe parasitic is a better word) relationship is formed between the Kims and Parks.
- Are we scared? Sad? We don't know
I'll stop there and say that the movie takes some turns. Unlike The Host, there are no big special effects moments and unlike Snowpiercer, there are no clear cut heroes or villains. If subtitles don't give you scabies and you're OK with a flick with no easy rewards, you'll enjoy this movie.
Upon stepping out of a screening of the film, the first thing I wanted to do was talk to someone at length about the themes, Kyung-pyo Hong's detailed cinematography that captured both opulent and impoverished conditions, the flawless performances, and the twists and turns of the script by the director and Han Jin-won.
But I refrained simply because I didn't want to hold up (aka weird out) anyone with five minutes of overly enthusiastic blathering. Based on his past films and the film's title, I was ready for a turn involving literal monsters. It's no spoiler to say there are no literal monsters. One person at the screening said it was like a comedy one minute then a drama then at one moment a horror film. The movie is so layered that it is all those things and more. Parasite is definitely the kind of movie that film fans live for. Think what The Joker did for mainstream audiences. A lot of conversations were sparked after viewing the DC character study.
What adjectives are there to describe this?
Harrowing, funny, clever, and heartbreaking are among four that immediately spring to mind. I'm sure the enjoyment also came from knowing very little about it going in. Your expectations aren't as lofty when you walk in unaware of what's ahead. It's like just having a stranger sit in front of you and tell you a story. You don't know what you'll get. Sometimes you'll get something like Sherlock Gnomes and then sometimes you'll get gems like Parasite.
Go see it.