Parasite (2019)
Parasite (2019)

Genre: Dramatic Comedy Running Time: 2 hrs. 12 min.

Release Date: November 8th, 2019 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Bong Joon Ho Actors: Song Kang Ho, Lee Sun Kyun, Cho Yeo Jeong, Choi Woo Shik, Park So Dam, Lee Jung Eun, Chang Hyae Jin, Jung Ziso




ather Kim Ki-taek (Song Kang Ho), mother Chung-sook (Chang Hyae Jin), and teenaged children Kim Ki-woo (Choi Woo Shik) and Kim Ki-jung (Park So Dam) struggle to get a free, external WiFi signal in their small, partially subterraneous South Korean house. And when the fumigator blasts poison across the street, they leave the window open – to receive free fumigation, despite the fact that they’re dusted with the insecticide, forcing them to cough and cry. Plus, it gets all over the pizza boxes they’ve been paid to assemble. The family is all out of work and out of school, unable to pay for further education or even enough food to eat. Yet their attempts at employment appear feeble at best.

That evening, pal Min (Seo-joon Park) stops by to tell Ki-woo about his job as a tutor for a rich kid, which will be temporarily halted when Min goes abroad. He suggests that Ki-woo fill in for him; after all, the matriarch (Cho Yeo Jeong) of the Park family is a bit simple, and the student, Da-hye (Jung Ziso), isn’t too advanced. And so, adopting the easier name of Kevin, Ki-woo begins teaching three classes per week in a palatial estate. When he discovers that Da-hye’s brother, 9-year-old Da-song, is an aspiring artist, he has his sister assume the name of Jessica to begin teaching art therapy in the very same household. Perhaps there’s work to be found for his mother and father as well …

Taking the adage “fake it till you make it” to new extremes, the financially destitute family slowly ingratiates itself into the affluent one – as if to replace everyone in the vicinity until they’re all that’s left (a somewhat symbiotic as well as parasitic association). The deception and manipulation is fascinating – but most of all it’s hilarious. Through careful editing (including slow-motion at spots as if an action-packed heist flick), rising and falling musical cues (and some grandly-placed operatic notes), and stark contrasts in both dialogue and actions (to demonstrate the audacity and irony of their ruse), the picture is consistently hysterical.

“You have a lot to learn about people.” Despite the continual laughs, there’s still a nagging sense of something going terribly wrong all of a sudden – and, indeed, not everything goes according to plan. They may be charlatans, but they’re the funny, likable kind. The predicament soon grows more and more out of control, however, escalating to fresh heights of anxiety, even when slapstick and situational comedy supplements the absurdities. At one point, it shifts from levity-filled realism to fantastical nonsense – perhaps a metaphor for lives sinking in a mire of sins (or a downward spiral or the chaos of unplanned fraudulence).

It’s also an examination of the rich versus the poor, and the ease with which the have-nots can begin to resent the haves, especially when it comes to the ability for problems to be solved with extra cash thrown around. Not content with a basic premise of crime and punishment, however, director Bong Joon Ho goes a step further, eventually corkscrewing off on a tangent that drags out the running time. Sadly, he goes too far; what began as a discernible, comical parable of class warfare devolves into a rambunctious rebellion, lashing out at the perceived evils of the wealthy to end on an unfitting note of modest regret – but not a staggering epiphany or some other worthy revelation.

– Mike Massie

  • 7/10