Director Bong Joon-ho has crafted a very impressive body of work. Whether it’s urban squalor (Snowpiercer), monster chaos (The Host), friendship between youth and beast (Okja), and a mother taking the law into her own hands (Mother), he has shown the film world that he can put his own distinctive, stylish spin on the often colorful, albeit dark side of humanity. And with arguably his finest achievement, the ferociously entertaining Parasite (2019), he has amazingly tapped into greed and social dysfunction with an air of urgency and unpredictable emotion.
The film centers on two vastly different social classes: the super wealthy Park family, and the smart, but penniless Kim family. A family friend gifts the Kims with a scholar rock that is supposed to bring them wealth and prosperity, and he suggests that the son Ki-woo pose as a university student to take over for him as tutor for the Park’s teen daughter. Ki-woo tells the Park matriarch that he knows an art therapist named ‘Jessica’, who is really his sister Ki-jeong, posing as a teacher for the Park’s unruly young son. Soon after, Ki-taek and Chung-sook, the Kim parents, come into the picture as the new chauffeur and housekeeper, which forms a new, symbiotic relationship between both families. This brings the Kim family the newfound comfort that they have always dreamed of. Things are going great, until the former housekeeper, a ‘parasitic’ interloper comes back into the picture, and threatens their whole plan. This eventually leads to a brutal battle of dominance, where tragedy leaves no one unscathed.
There is a sense of honesty that suffices throughout the entire film, especially where the elements of greed are concerned. You also get the depiction of how screwed up people can get when they get an opportunity to further their chances at a better life. The Kim family is diabolical, but you can’t help but have empathy for them. You weirdly start to root for them, as opposed to the Park family, where their wealth seems to make them a little unstable. The Park mother is nervous; the Park father seems a little uninterested; the daughter is more occupied with love than her studies, and the young son is undisciplined. With a truly talented cast of actors, led by a remarkable Song Kan Ho (a Joon-ho regular), you can see how characters can evolve with reality, and with Joon-ho’s astonshing direction, you get how people really live in their country at a turning point.
The only bonus features are a 19-minute Q&A with Joon-ho and two trailers. When you first play the disc, there are trailers for Portrait of a Lady on Fire, Clemency, and The Lodge. The special features are incredibly slim, but with a film as savagely brilliant as Parasite, you really don’t care. I just wish Criterion would have picked it up, but you can’t always get what you want.
Obviously, I was completely rattled and transfixed by the film’s many twists and turns. I definitely understand all the acclaim and accolades that it is received and more. I think that Joon-hoo’s remarkable and timely dark comedy-drama will be talked and written about for many years to come. It’s a modern classic!