parasite – bong joon ho

Rating: 5/5 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 (Minor Spoilers)

The cinematic masterpiece Parasite swept the 2020 Academy Awards, taking home four Oscars for Best Original Screenplay, Best Directing, Best International Film, and Best Picture. I watched the movie with my friend two nights before the Oscars, determined to understand the buzz surrounding it. Going into the movie, I had very high expectations. All of my friends who had already seen the movie told me it was amazing, one of the best films they’ve ever seen; so naturally, I was ready to be wowed. What I did not expect was for the movie to completely sweep me off my feet, making me laugh for the first half, and clutching me by the neck and chest the second. It’s definitely one of the best movies I’ve ever seen.

It’s hard to write about Parasite without spoiling it. But the first half of the movie tells of the poor Kim family slowly infiltrating the wealthy Park family, one by one becoming a member of their staff.

Down to the core, Parasite is a social commentary on capitalism. I won’t use the word evil here, because history has shown that capitalism does in fact trump communism (several big yikes there); but of the violent consequences that capitalism can bring. In nearly every way, the Park and Kim family are mirrored but fundamentally different. There are four members in each family, two parents and a daughter and son, yet where they are physically located during the movie sheds light into their everyday lives. The Parks live uphill, where every time the Kims go to their house, they are constantly walking up, whereas the Kims live in a sort of half basement half house, where one constant view is a man pissing on the streets. Throughout the movie, this separation of the physical self is seen as the Kims hide under beds, in basements, and in one breath-stopping scene, under the table next to where the Parks slept.

After he establishes the class difference between the Parks and Kims, Bong Joon Ho starts working on his next stroke of genius: the moral ambiguity of each family. It is easy at first to root for the Kims, as they are the underdog, the classic born-poor-into-society-but-strives-to-be-rich. But after a while, the audience sees that the Kims would stop at no length to achieve wealth. However, unlike a more traditional story, the Parks are not the villain either. Despite rolling in money and wrapped up in status, the Parks are “nice”, but a niceness is not inherent and stems from their wealth.

With this ambivalence between characters raises the question of the title: Who is the parasite? At first glance it is obvious that the Kims have parasitical characteristics. They feed off the Parks. Living under their roof. Sucking their wealthy. But the Parks themselves rely on the Kims in another way. The wealthy family is so incapacitated and removed, they cannot do the simplest things for themselves. They depend on art tutors and maids and drivers to carry out the tasks that they have grown to disdain.

I won’t spoil the ending, but I will say that it was a hell of an ending. You feel nearly every emotion there is to feel. You laugh. You’re anxious. You’re scared. You want to hide. You want to win. You’re shocked. You’re incapacitated of doing anything as you watch the last few scenes, eyes glued to the screen and mouth probably hanging open the whole time (no exaggeration.)

Parasite, in my opinion, was the best movie of 2019 (probably one of the best movies ever, period), no matter what Donald Trump might say.

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