Studio: Universal Pictures
Director: Bong Joon Ho
Writer: Bong Joon Ho, Jin Won Han
Producer: Kwak Sin-ae, Moon Yang-kwon, Bong Joon Ho
Stars: Song Kang Ho, Lee Sun Kyun, Cho Yeo Jeong, Choi Woo Shik, Park So Dam, Lee Jung Eun, Chang Hyae Jin, Jung Ziso
A poor family pulls a series of cons to insert themselves into a wealthy household, but encounters an unusual situation that threatens to expose their deception.
In accepting the 2020 Golden Globe for Best Foreign-Language Film, ¡°Parasite¡± director Bong Joon Ho gave a speech with one particularly resonant sentiment that really cannot be emphasized enough. The celebrated filmmaker slyly said, ¡°once you overcome the one-inch tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films.¡±
I cover foreign films very selectively because I¡¯ve unfortunately learned that those reviews tend to draw lower than average traffic. There could be several explanations of course, but data seemingly suggests an appreciable portion of my audience just isn¡¯t as interested in a text-heavy movie versus something spoken in English. Much more so than a dip in readership however, the true shame here is how many people may miss out on terrific entertainment because subtitles are seen as a turnoff.
I also took my time getting to ¡°Parasite¡± because in addition to silly little struggles like sequencing Korean names correctly (I¡¯m still not sure if it should be Bong Joon Ho, Bong Joon-ho, or Joon-ho Bong), the movie¡¯s 132-minute runtime and thematic complexity meant I¡¯d probably have to put in more effort than usual to break down the story and subtext. Frankly, it¡¯s much easier on my workload to review a breezy killer puppet flick and get back a few more hours in my day than it is to try competing with the erudite analysis already out there for ¡°Parasite.¡±
But I could only be intimidated by my own laziness for so long before I finally had to see what the unending buzz was about. Now that I have, what can I tell you about ¡°Parasite¡± that you haven¡¯t already heard or someone hasn¡¯t said better? Maybe not much. So if these thoughts leave any notion at all in anyone¡¯s head, let it be that best interests will often be rewarded by challenging comfort zones and taking more chances on movies that reside outside your usual wheelhouse.
In other words, don¡¯t be afraid of 2+ hour films in another language. Otherwise, you¡¯ll only hurt yourself by delaying or dismissing gripping movies like ¡°Parasite.¡±
Popular chatter has been cagey about revealing ¡°Parasite¡± story specifics for good reason. Although it features them, ¡°Parasite¡± isn¡¯t heavily reliant on twists the same way a lot of thrillers are. What I mean is, knowing plot points in advance won¡¯t necessarily irrevocably ruin your viewing like say, knowing Bruce Willis was dead the whole time in ¡°The Sixth Sense¡± or that the ¡°Planet of the Apes¡± is actually Earth. You won¡¯t be able to summarize what¡¯s most memorable about ¡°Parasite¡± as succinctly as I just did for those two examples.
Rather, the hook of how ¡°Parasite¡± grabs you is in the increasingly intoxicating way its storytelling unfolds as the mood moves from comedy to drama to suspense. It¡¯s not about buildups to big revelations so much as the manner in which the dynamically evolving texture keeps feeding character-driven engagement. The real reason you don¡¯t want to know too much, and why it¡¯s almost not even worth talking about the film in terms of what happens, is because the entire experience is what makes the movie. ¡°Parasite¡± is simply one of the best examples of ¡°you just gotta see it for yourself¡± I can think of.
Anyone averse to subtitles will find their sickness in full swing since the film is extraordinarily dependent on dialogue. And while it doesn¡¯t exactly drag, you can still feel how long certain scenes are since accordion-style pacing purposefully plays with fluctuating energy.
Along those lines, if we¡¯re faulting the film for any dominant infraction that could be an impediment to immersion, it¡¯s that ¡°Parasite¡± takes a solid 20 to 30 minutes for all of the interactive relationships to settle. Only then does the bigger picture start fully stocking up on intrigue. Once the plot finally starts clicking though, external issues quickly shrink in the rearview. By the time you reach the halfway point, when you realize it¡¯s impossible to predict where the movie will go next, you won¡¯t consciously notice how cleverly its authentic acting transports you into the humorous, heartbreaking, and heart-stopping world of ¡°Parasite.¡±
I guess this skin-deep ¡°review¡± is kind of a copout in terms of critical insight, but there¡¯s really only so much to be said in a capsule context like this. Again, you just have to see ¡°Parasite¡± for yourself. You¡¯ll be immensely pleased that you did, and deeply disappointed if you don¡¯t.
NOTE: The film¡¯s Korean title is ¡°Gisaengchung.¡±
Review Score: 85