Once in a while a foreign film comes along that gets massive American appeal, praise, and Oscar buzz. Before “Parasite,” no foreign film has done that for me since “El Laberinto del Fauno” (Pan’s Labyrinth) in 2006. That movie went on to be nominated for six Oscars and win three…
I’m just saying.
“Parasite” starts off as a fascinating and poignant look at two very different families in South Korea and how they are brought together by circumstance, luck, and deception. One family is devastatingly poor, the other is exceedingly wealthy. The story is about how both these families end up working in tandem with presumed common goals only to end up entangled in lies from both sides.
Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-Ho wrote and directed this film. If you don’t know his name, you should. His way to make us think of the world around us in the most surreal of ways can also be seen in films like “Okja” on Netflix and what I believe to be the best-hidden gem of 2013, “Snowpiercer.”
There’s something very Victor Hugo-esque or Dickensian when it comes to how Joon-Ho shows the divide between the poor and the rich. And yet at the same time, regardless of where you are on that socio-economic bracket, as you watch, you seem to understand, relate, and even predict how both families will act and react to their surroundings, while at the same time find yourself putting yourself in their shoes for just an instant while then being taken into another moral conundrum without missing a beat of the story or plot development.
It’s like a magic trick that requires stellar dialogue, pacing, cinematography, and humor all converging together to bring about a harmony of movie-making precision. The first 40% or so of the film’s 2 hour and 12 minute duration is spent introducing the characters from each family in each household and how it is that they all end up under the same roof. Joon-Ho does so in a way that I can only describe as devastatingly clever and hysterically sad.
But once both families are under the same roof, a completely unexpected twist is thrown at you that sets your psyche up for a different kind of story entirely, but one that can only be told through the lenses of the characters that you just spent 50 minutes getting introduced to.
“Parasite” was just gifted the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Film and Bong Joon-Ho was nominated (though didn’t win) for Best Director and Best Screenplay. I predict a similar trend for this year’s Oscars.
I saw this film right towards the end of 2019 and was certainly in the top three of movies I saw that year. As of the time I post this review, it is still playing sporadically in theaters nationwide, or wait about a month before it’s available on digital or blu-ray. (I know I’ll be buying it for sure.) Either way, this is a must-see film.