Human foibles fill the screen in director Bong Joon Ho’s award-winning Parasite. Two families -- one wealthy and the other poor -- interact and engage in very bad behavior. Although a Korean offering, this satirical comedy/drama/thriller (co-written by Jin Won Han) is also immensely popular in many other countries. The film has even earned U. S. Oscar nominations in various categories. *
Most of the action takes place inside two abodes: a lavish contemporary mansion and a smelly semi-basement apartment. The impoverished family living in the latter manage to get hired by the wealthy folks, who have no idea these new hires are members of the same family. Which group ends up taking advantage of the other? Or are the rich and the poor equally at fault?
Telling much more about the plot might ruin this movie for you. Therefore, I will concentrate on other elements. The splendid cinematography by Kyang-pyo Hong (Snowpiercer) emphasizes extreme differences between the two abodes and the life styles that go with them. That helps us understand why the poor family would want to live in such a luxurious environment. Background music by Jaeil Jung (Okja) skillfully enhances our tension and anxiety in many sequences. Plus, most of the actors play their difficult roles well, some even with gusto. Kudos to the one starting the con (Choi Woo Shik) and the faux housekeeper (Chang Hye-jin). I think they are the most convincing at this dangerous masquerade.
Parasite includes some “wish-I-never-saw-that” scenes, especially a suspenseful and bloody party sequence near the end. Viewers who are faint of heart should be forewarned, but horror fans might enjoy the carnage.
So what went wrong in Parasite?
Things that happen just don’t seem right.
Impressively disgusting, yes.
With shock and awe mixed in the mess.
My expectations? Way too high.
Because of Okja, here’s a sigh.
Snowpiercer too I thought first rate.
And Bong Joon Ho, director great.
Billed in part as a comedy.
Nothing to me appeared funny.
Some satire but not at its best.
And ugliness filled in the rest.
What else was missing this time out?
A character we shout about.
Still, congrats for awards it’s won.
Glad I watched it -- and now that’s done.
I have never knowingly written satire. The word connotes exaggeration of the foibles of mankind. To me, mankind just has foibles. You don’t have to push it. --- Tom Wolfe
(Released by NEON and rated “R” for language, some violence and sexual content.)
*AUTHOR'S NOTE on February 9, 2020: This just in. Parasite won Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay and Best International Feature at the 92nd Annual Academy Awards this evening.