Parasite has been the critical darling since its unanimous win of the coveted Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, and this weekend took a Best Screenplay award while it stands a chance at winning the Best Foreign Film award at the Oscars. It has also been nominated or including Best Picture and Best Director.
I don’t get the fuss.
The film, out now on disc from Universal Home Entertainment, is a South Korean production cowritren, co-produced, and directed by Bong Joon-ho. While it appears on the surface to be a story about a low-income family struggling to survive, it addresses class distinctions and demonstrates the lengths to which people will go in order to live. Apparently, the parents, Ki-taek (Song Kang-ho), and Chung-sook (Chang Hyae-jin), and their teen children Ki-woo (Choi Woo-shik) and Ki-jeong (Park So-dam), go from temporary job to temporary job, barely able to cover food and rent. We see them ineptly folding boxes for a pizza restaurant, reflecting their haphazard approach to improving their situation.
Providence arrives in the form of Ki-woo’s friend, who is about to study abroad and tells him to be his replacement as English tutor to sophomore student Da-hye (Jeong Ji-so), eldest child to a wealthy family. No sooner does Ki-woo get the job then he and his sister launch a plot for the entire clan to infiltrate the upscale home, each taking over a job and pretending not to be related to one another.
In surprisingly short order, the plan works and all four now serve as tutors, driver, and housekeeper for Mr. Park (Lee Sun-kyun) and his seemingly clueless wife Mrs. Park (Cho Yeo-jeong). The daughter is a gifted artist but cynically suggests the youngest child, Da-song (Jung Hyeon-jun) needs expensive Art Therapy, which she would happily provide.
Rather than explore the class differences and the interactions between counterparts, Joon-ho can’t make up his mind as to what tone to strike. The family, once desperate, become sarcastic, displaying their poor manners and taking full advantage of the Parks’ largesse rather than cultivate their roles to ensure longevity. While Mr. Park opens up a bit about his wife’s shortcomings, Mrs. Park offers nothing but effervescence and Ki-woo’s romance of someone far younger is just icky. About the only thing the Parks find odd is a certain odor from the newly hired quarter, something the son notices first and then bothers Mr. Park. While the family recognizes the need to change soaps for each, they never seem to do so since the odor, a metaphor made manifest, remains a plot point.
As if he ran out of material, halfway through the film briefly becomes a farce as we learn the previous housekeeper has been hiding her husband in the hidden underground bunker. She begs Chung-sook to keep their secret and keep feeding the man, who apparently is being hunted by loan sharks for unpaid debts. When the impostors are revealed, things threaten to spiral out of control.
Events build with less logic in each passing scene, such as a rainstorm that backs up the sewers, ruining the impostor’s apartment, climaxing at an impromptu garden party where farce gives way to thriller and violence replaces plot. Some revelations are preposterous with an over-reliance on Morse Code.
What should have been everything the critics said Parasite was, this is a poorly plotted, underwritten and flatly performed production that doesn’t deserve the heaps of praise it has garnered. Decide for yourself.
The film’s digital production means the resolution of 6.5K and finished at 4K looks stunning in 1080p. It is evenly matched with the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless soundtrack, which comes in Korean, requiring you to use English subtitles.
For a film that’s a critics’ darling, the sole special feature offered is Parasite — Fantastic Fest 2019 Q&A with Joon Ho (19:03), nowhere near enough to explain what was on his mind.