Bong Joon-ho has really made a name for himself on the international stage. "The Host," "Mother" and "Memories of Murder" all helped him make a name for himself in his home country of South Korea. Also he gained worldwide respect for their efforts. But his name really didn't spread until "Snowpiercer" came out, which was his first film that had a huge international cast including Chris Evans, Tilda Swinton, Octavia Spencer, Ed Harris and Jamie Bell. "Okja" helped also reach a bigger audience thanks to Netflix.
I can say with authority that for my money, he just leveled up big time with "Parasite." This film is a cascade of emotion and meaning. A movie that will have you laughing one minute, thrilled by the storyline another and even trembling in fear another. It is an all-encompassing experience, brought together by a wonderful Korean ensemble. As social class becomes more and more of a talking point in this country, its a little spooky how hard this hits home.
The movie mainly follows the Kim's. The entire family lives in a cramped apartment room. They spend their days thinking about being rich and living the good life. But they don't play coy or the victims. They are proactive everyday about making money, hustling the streets for anything, trying to make ends meet. One day, the son Kim Ki-Woo (Choi Woo-shik) gets a job tutoring the daughter of the prestigious Park family. The Parks are very rich, and its a huge opportunity for Ki-woo. As his father Kim Kai-taek (Song Kang-ho) sees how well his son is doing, and he hatches a plan to get the whole family jobs with the Parks, even if it means getting the family's other housmaids fired. Soon, Kai-taek's wife Chung-sook (Jang Hyai-hjin) and his daughter Ki-jung (Park So-dam) have received jobs from the Parks.
If that was the whole movie, it would have been entertaining enough, the first half of the movie has a life and style of its own. Its very funny in some places and has some very real things to say about class that is universal. I think its entertaining enough by itself that I would still call it one of the years best films. But as the film drags on, it excels even further. Once the game that is at play is revealed, the movie shifts again. I am blown away how well the movie shifts tones with glee. I don't want to give anything away, but it reveals the ultimate metaphor. I think there are lots of myths regarding the class system in any country. I think here in America, people are promised lots of stuff. We are ingrained to believe that with hard work, you can "achieve the American dream" and make tons of money. But we all know that a very small percentage makes that type of income, and that small percentage helps keeping the others down. I think its easy for people to say "just get a job, and work hard" but the job market, more than ever, is a hellish landscape. Its become harder and harder for people to break into anything.
I am not trying to persuade people not to aim for their dreams and work hard. I am just saying we all need to come together and listen to each other. We need to change the entire culture and paradigm around class if we are ever going to change it in a positive way. We also need to stop looking down on these people. Just because someone is poor and struggling does not make them lazy. The cast and crew sell these ideals perfectly. The entire cast is superb, every performance near-perfect.
The movie hits some pretty broad tonal shifts throughout the movie, and it adds up t one of the best experiences of the year. I know some people get iffy about foreign films because of subtitles, but I hope this still does well here in the states. Absolutely worth seeing.
FINAL GRADE: A+