A Story of Greed and Discrimination: "Parasite" Lives Up to Expectations

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If you’re familiar with Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-ho, you’re probably already aware of the surprising twists and subtle depths that his stories are willing to go. It sounds cliché and seems impossible to say that any film is ‘like nothing you’ve ever seen’ in 2019, but his newest film “Parasite” truly lives up to such an outrageous claim. If you appreciate the visual art that is film and good writing, one could argue that this film is one of the best movies of this year.

Bong has already made films about class, such as “Snowpiercer”, but his current film takes that portrayal to a new level. “Parasite” is partially a hilarious satire, but also an unexpected message about the literal and metaphorical barriers that wealth can create between the rich and poor. At first, you watch the destitute Kim family conning the well-off Park family humorously, which is especially funny with Song Kang-ho in the cast (watch him in “The Host” if you haven’t already). Then, there is a tonal shift that has you asking serious questions about how the rich treat the poor, and vice versa. Throughout the movie, you feel a strange fear about how far the Kim family’s con game is willing to go but you’re also rooting for them at the same time. It’s a nerve-wracking experience in the best way possible.

The film begins with Kim Ki-taek who lives with his wife Chung-sook, son Ki-woo and daughter Ki-jeong in a dingy basement apartment struggling to survive. To get by, they do things like steal Wi-Fi from a nearby coffee shop and fold pizza boxes for a delivery business. Their luck takes a turn when Ki-woo’s friend offers him an English tutoring job for a wealthy teen girl named Park Da-hye. This is when he begins scheming to replace all the Park family’s staff with his own family members, from the driver to the housekeeper, to the art tutor with forged certifications. Things seem to be going well with all the Kims employed full-time and finally making good money, until (of course) things are just too good to be true and things get messy.

The film presents this story with a genius script and masterful cinematography, conveying strong symbolism through clever visual cues. The Kim’s home is halfway underground, cramped and dank, showing you how they’re constantly caught between their poverty and a stable life. In contrast, the Park’s home is open, serene and immaculate, closed off and above the world. Those are subtle yet literal representations of where people stand in the world when it comes to wealth or lack thereof. It’s truly a social commentary on how the rich depend on the labors of the poor for a better quality of life, how some things aren’t as good as they seem on the surface, and how the poor can become resentful of the rich.

I don’t want to spoil it further, but it is a tremendously entertaining spectacle that is also thought-provoking. This is the sort of film that takes you on an eerie ride, where you leave the theater begging to discuss and unpack all the information you just translated between the lines. If you’re interested in Jordan Peele’s “Us”, then this is a movie that may be of interest to you. Who are the real parasites here, anyway? Take my advice and figure it out for yourself by going to see Parasite, currently playing at Keystone Arts Cinema.

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