ITOL 2019 Round-up: Parasite

By James Cain

The rich are a problem – so much so that culture in 2019 took this as obvious. Be it the bickering Thrombeys in “Knives Out”, the sinister Le Domas family in “Ready Or Not”, or the sweetly-oblivious Crawley clan in “Downton Abbey” (not to mention the exquisitely despicable Roy empire in TV’s “Succession”, or The Tories and The Republicans in “real life”), obscene wealth is seen throughout much of culture as a degenerative brain disease that robs the host of all decency.

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Despite coming out in New Zealand six months ago, Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite still hasn’t been seen in several countries around the world, including the UK and Ireland. And what a shame: While Bong has of course given the world superb anti-capitalist films before (namely “Okja”, “Snowpiercer” and “The Host”), “Parasite” feels like his most topical work yet. Not to mention the fact that It’s definitely the best movie of 2019.

“Parasite” is his first outright comedy since 2000 debut “Barking Dogs Never Bite”. This is a pitch-black farce that frequently becomes a delightful caper – albeit one whose heroes have ineffably murky methods.

In Bong’s latest we’re introduced to the Kims, a family of grifters living in a semi-basement home: Mother Chung-sook (Jang Hyae-jin), father Ki-taek (Song Kang-ho), teen daughter Ki-jung (Park So-dam) and teen son Ki-woo (Choi Woo-sik). When the latter cons his way into a job as a tutor for the ultra-wealthy Park family, the Kims set their sights on becoming a permanent part of the affluent household.

While Bong’s films are often very funny affairs, “Parasite” is his first outright comedy since 2000 debut “Barking Dogs Never Bite”. This is a pitch-black farce that frequently becomes a delightful caper – albeit one whose heroes have ineffably murky methods. You love to root against the Park couple: Yeon-kyo (Jo Yeo-jong) is a prim-and-proper lady and Dong-ik (Lee Sun-kyun) is a suave tech executive, but in reality they’re disgusted by the slightest bit of the real world.

If you’re thinking that this review isn’t getting too much into the plot, then you’d be right! “Parasite” isn’t a film with a big twist – this is a Russian doll of a movie, where each reveal can bring delight, raucous laughter, dread or heartbreak. It is the blackest of comedies, where you’re rooting for con artists to soak up some of this awful couple’s fortune, while the poorer family is actively creating victims of their own.

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Given that ITOL editor Bee Garner has asked that these end-of-year reviews stay brief, just know this: If your life could be improved by a joyously dark class-warfare comedy from one of the greatest living directors, then let this parasite into your life.

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