By Ambar Chatterjee
‘Parasite deserves every bit of the praise that it is garnering’
Cast: Choi Woo-Shik, Jang Hye-Jin, Park So-Dam, Song Kang-Ho, Jang Hye-Jin
Director: Bong Joon Ho
Rating: 4/5 (4 out of 5 Stars)
Kim Ki-woo’s (Choi Woo-shik) family lives in what is known as a semi-basement house in a poor neighborhood of Seoul. The family is finding it increasingly difficult to make ends meet as they toggle between odd jobs like folding pizza boxes. Ki-woo’s friend Min-hyuk (Park Seo-joon) drops by one day with a gift for the family which turns out to be an old rock. According to Min-hyuk, the rock is lucky and is set to bring material wealth to the family. His belief is immediately substantiated when he ends up offering Ki-woo his own job of tutoring the daughter of the extremely rich and simple Park family. Ki-woo at first is apprehensive about the offer as he believes that he is not qualified enough but on Min-hyuk’s persuasion and with his sister forging his college certificate, Ki-woo set out to take up the job.
He ascends from his semi-basement dwelling to the lavish Park household and almost immediately impresses his to-be student Park Da-hye (Jung Ji-so)and her mother Park Chung-sook (Jang Hye-jin). With his job sealed and some money flowing into their household, Ki-Woo sets out to place his sister, Kim Ki-jeong (Park So-dam) as the arts therapy teacher of Park Da-song (Jung Hyeon-jun) the younger brother of Da-hye. Ki-jeong, with her unflinching manners and unforgiving attitude not only bags the job but is also able to make Park Chung-sook pay her more than any art teacher was supposed to receive. Once that is sealed, Ki-jeong sets into motion an elaborate plan to get the Park family’s driver ousted and have her father Kim Ki-taek (Song Kang-ho) recruited as their new driver. Kim Ki-taek makes the cut and after a lot of theatrical training and planning, he is able to play the simple Park Chung-sook to the extent that she fires her housekeeper unceremoniously and appoints the last Kim family member, Park Chung-sook (Jang Hye-jin)in her place.
The whole family has now found a livelihood in the Park Household and as indicated by the patriarch of the family, the cumulative income coming in from all of them is sizeable. Their life looks set and they are poised to rise above their sorry existence. Soon the Park family goes out on a camping trip and this allows the Kim family to have the palatial house all to themselves for a night. As they are merry-making and living out their wildest fantasies, the doorbell rings and everything changes forever.
This film and it has been talked about so much that there remains very little to be said about it that hasn’t been said already. Hence, I would like to remain objective about it forgetting whether that is something that has already been said about the film or not. I was not only entertained by this film but felt engrossed in the story of the households. I was hooked to the performance of the cast from the moment they appeared on screen. The very first sequence sets up the mood for what is about to follow. The two siblings hunting for a free wi-fi connection with their father guiding them on how they could possibly get it makes their condition abundantly clear. If that was not enough, the portion involving the family landing up with the odd job of folding pizza boxes and doing a horrible job of it was pure gold. Kim-woo even tries to land an interview with the Pizza joint subtly depicting his desperation at landing a job.
When his friend Min-hyuk offers him the job of tutoring the Park family girl, it is with the aim that the girl remains pristine so that when he returns from abroad, he can profess his love to her. However, showing utter disregard for his friend’s faith on him and lack of basic moral compass, Kim-woo pounces on the girl at the first opportunity. When he tries to bring in his sister as the art therapy teacher for the girl’s younger brother, it feels like a fluke but as we listen to their later dialogues, it becomes clear that they were playing out a well-orchestrated plot.
The film swirls through a gamut of dramatic moments and keeps you on the edge of your seats. There is hardly a dull moment in the entire film, and something is always afoot. What is more interesting is how funny the film is. Even though it narrates a bizarre story and ends up being a tragedy in the end, it remains funny in an out-of-the world sort of a way. There are also certain aspects of it that repeatedly keeps popping up. “Smell” is something that is brought up again and again and, in the end, proves to be the catalyst that makesKim Ki-taek do something that not only makes the film’s ending shocking but also begs the question that why he did it at a juncture when he could see at least two members of his family in dire need of his help. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that the audience as much as the character was being built up for this surprising turn of events from the very beginning of the film and it is so haunting because of the manner how it is approached.
The difference in the standard of living and the strata of class of the two families is depicted by the positioning of their respective houses in the city. While rain is a matter of beauty for the Park family, it brutally inundates the dwelling of the Kim family. I will never forget the sequence where we see Kim Ki-jeon willfully sit on the toilet seat of her house to minimize the gushing filth that is making its way out of the commode and crawling into her house. These chaotic sequences lead up to a sequence of complete silence with only Kim Ki-taek speaking to his son in an open-air gym where his whole neighborhood has taken refuge after their houses have been washed away by the rainwater. There is a sense of beauty and art in these sequences that are impossible to express in words.
The ensemble cast of the film is phenomenal. It goes beyond saying that this is a film that is driven by the performances and a single lapse from any of the actors would have quickly diluted the overall impact of the film. The actors never give you a chance to look away. Bong Joon Ho, who is also the writer of the film,must be given credit for writing such exceptional characters but every character in a film is only as good as the actor who is essaying it. In that department, Parasite scores heavily. Even Jung Hyeon-jun, who plays the kid Da-song is unbelievably potent.
Parasite is a deserving best picture Oscar winner. It is the kind of film that is for those who take pleasure in the art of cinema and appreciate it for what it can be. Many are sighting this as Bong Joon Ho’s best film till date and it might as well be. I will be able to comment on that After I watch all his films including Okja that everyone has been asking me to see and review. For now, I am mighty impressed with Parasite and might just watch it a few times more to get a hold of all the nuances and the trickled cinematic magic that people have been noticing with every subsequent viewing.