• Madhav Gupta

[Review] 'Parasite': A Dark, Hilarious, Subversive Masterpiece, That's Bound To Be a Classic

PARASITE, Bong Joon-Ho's Palme d'Or winning, deliciously splendid, comedically dark black comedy-slash-thriller drama on the social class divide in South Korea, is a film that will, more or less, go down as an era-defining release. It's a film that works as a perfect curtain-closer to the 2010s, a wonderful decade for cinema, with incredibly relevant themes on the separation between the glossy riches of the upper-classes and the austere poverty of the lower-classes.

Set in modern day South Korea, Parasite tells the story of two families: the Kims and the Parks. The Kims are unemployed, living in a cramped underground basement, struggling to find jobs to feed their bellies. Soon enough, they discover the existence of the extremely wealthy and prestigiously rich Parks, who live in a glorious condo with a beautiful garden. This ignites a series of lies that soon turns into a relationship of leeches between the two families, each one benefitting off the other in cunning ways. Hence, the title, Parasite. However, the Parks may be hiding secrets beneath all their glorious wealth that will turn the Kims' life upside down.

The plot summary above is just the tip of the iceberg. It's a film jam-packed with layers and layers of social commentary, satirizing the 99% and the 1% of the population simultaneously. Screenwriters Jin Won-Han and Bong Joon-Ho have crafted a movie so impressive, it can't be believed: subversive, witty, clever, original, hilarious, sweat-inducing and heartbreaking.

Every character is defined by their own unique trait. You cannot help but cheer for the under-privileged, and the incredibly cunning Kims as their master plan begins to take shape. You also feel a lot for the Parks as you learn more and more about them and uncover more about what lies behind their apparent wealth. The film doesn't want you to take sides with anyone in particular; it simply wants you to understand the frustrations the lower-classes experience every day due to the neglect and embarrassment they face. It escalates to how sometimes that anger of living under the shadows can lead to ugly consequences.

Technical brilliance and total perfection in the craft of film-making is present in all its wondrous glory. With a warm-toned color palette, lush cinematography, a grand melodious score, crisp editing, strong structure and tight pacing, there really is not a single dull moment in this film. Even if you might end up disliking it, which alone seems like an anomaly considering how irresistibly enjoyable it is from start to finish, you will still not be bored by any of it. Because every single scene means something. Every single frame builds up to all its big twists and shocks later on (which you really do not want to get spoiled for yourself, so stay away from most promotional material).

Bong Joon-Ho's direction here is absolutely sublime and pristine. He has always been a master of the frame, but here his excellence goes a step further, giving us an immaculate visual experience that also never forgets about the primary ingredients that make a great movie: story, structure, and tonality. He easily and professionally juggles multiple tones; from family drama to heist comedy to a home-invasion thriller, it miraculously never comes off as messy or out of place even once. If that is not the sign of a true master's work, I don't know what else is.

As for the performances, without a cast this good, these characters wouldn't be as human, as real, or even as good or likable either. Song Kang-Ho, a regular in most of Bong's films, delivers one of his best performances yet as a kind-natured yet vulnerable father trying to provide for his family. Everyone in the rest of the cast brings their A-game here, with Jo Yeo-Jeong (as Mrs. Park) and Choi Woo-Sik (as Kim Ki-woo) being the main standouts for me apart from Kang-Ho.

It almost feels like Bong Joon-Ho's entire career before had been sort of leading up to this film. Whether it be 2014's Snowpiercer or 2006's excellent The Host, a lot of his work has always, in one way or the other, dealt with the socio-political class divide that is still to this day ever-present, highlighting the struggles of those who are under-privileged - displaying their anger and desires to be at the top. While I am still certain that a filmmaker like Joon-Ho, with a high caliber of continuous consistency with the quality of his work and the presentation of his themes, will go on to make more and more great pictures, I personally believe it'll be hard for any of his coming films, or any of this year's upcoming films, to top PARASITE as king of the mountain.

A must-see, genre-defining masterpiece. A classic for generations to come.

Score: ★★★★★



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