Film Review - Parasite (by Bong Joon Ho)

So, last night, I saw Parasite. You know, the movie that the entire world has been going ga ga about? from Cannes to LA to backroads of Versova to online dating forums and beyond!

The film opens on a family of four, the Kims, living in abject poverty (in a basement at the end of a street where drunkards routinely come and puke and piss) and have no hopes or plans for the future. Their phones have been disconnected because they've not paid the bills. And because they don't have phones, they can't get work (after all prospective employers would call you to hire you).

Life looks bleak when suddenly they get this stone that is supposed to bring them prosperity. And true to the charm, it does! Their life changes when the son fakes a degree to get hired as an English home tutor to the daughter of a technology tycoon, Park. From there on, with access to some money, thanks to the son, they start dreaming of a better future and a better life!

Once the son is settled in at a tutor at the Parks, he puts in motion a chain of events that changes the lives of each character in the film - there are 10 key ones (the Kims, the Parks, and the housekeeper).

There is a LOT more to the film than just this. I've not even scratched the surface. But revealing anything more would mean taking away from the experience of watching the film. So, I'd let it go. It's a pity that I cant write a lot about the film without revealing the plot! The thing is, when I write reviews, I try and reveal only as much as the director has chosen to in the official trailer of the film

So, what worked for me?
1. Great story
This is one of those stories I wish I had written! There were way too many twists and turns and surprises that I was on the edge. Constantly. The first half dragged a bit but the story did hold my attention. Repeat. Story. Not the film. As a writer, I was interested in knowing what would happen next.

The storytelling is subtle. Unlike other stories, where they tell you things, in this one, you discover things. For example, you realize that Kims are not the most honest people when they fake a degree to get the son a job. But the story plants the seeds when they do a small gig and try to con the employer to give them more money than they deserved!

The storytelling is layered. For each thing they communicate in the story, there is a deeper meaning which is often left unanswered, unexplored for the audience to derive the meaning out of.

2. The art
The house, uff!
I want to live in that house! It has everything that I love - a large space with high ceilings, minimal, spacious, modern, lot of wood, a patch of garden, airy windows, a secret chamber in the basement, diffused, automated lights, art and what not!

Apart from the house, the basement, the gym and other places that they've used in the film, they are brilliant. You want to immerse yourself in that world. You want to see more of those and yet you only get the glimpses. And that's probably the biggest secret of them all - less is more!

3. Faux philosophy
At multiple points in the narrative and the story, multiple characters use their versions of life philosophy to justify things happening around them. And each dialogue could take the shape you want to mold it in. You can scoff at those. You can like those. You can nod at those. You can laugh and dismiss those. All al the same time!

4. The symbolism
The name, Parasite, itself is such a brilliant tool to tell me what to expect. A parasite takes from others and survives at other's expense. In the world of the film, each character is a parasite of sorts. The rich wife, the successful business, the scheming family, the house help, the guests and people in general. Even the young boy. And it has been showcased so well that you forget that they are individuals. They are what the film is called! Parasites!

5. The contrast between the first and the second half
If I could divide the film into two halves, I'd say the first one is, well, quirky. There are these little schemes that the Kim family plots and plays and executes. There are these little funny incidents that make it a funny, happy movie. And the second, in contrast, is, well melancholy. No, wait. Melancholy is not the word. Its surprising, intimidating, complex. It's unexpected. You are taken down this dark journey that you did not expect when you were seeing the first half. You are half expecting a horror film with ghosts and skeletons luring out from abstract corners of the house. But its nothing like that. It's worse. Better, if I may!

6. The last 10-15 minutes
It is no doubt the best part of the film. It's a force majeure, if I may. It's been shot hauntingly well - you feel the excitement and togetherness and love of the characters (for each other). You also feel the pain and the anguish and despair that they have!

What did not work for me?
1. Lot of open ends. Like A LOT!
When I see a film, I want closure. I want to see each character reach their destiny. Or fail to reach their destiny. I want to see the struggle. I want to know how much they invested and how bad they wanted things. And I want to see a meaty melee where the characters are literally dying to reach where they wish to go!

2. Did not make me invested too much for, for too long
The film failed to give me a reason to stay invested after a certain point in the narrative. And the film takes almost an hour to reach that point. I don't want to write that point here (it will spoil the suspense). See footnote 1. 

That's it.
Just two things. Really. 

Please do see it. It's a great piece of cinema.
I'd give it 4 stars (on a scale of 5).

Small print?  
Did the film deserve all those awards?
Well, no!

And why not?
Well, a film to me is a story told on the visual medium. And a great story (irrespective of the medium) is supposed to inspire me, inform me, move me, heck, change me as a person! Great performances of great actors do that. When I see a Godfather, it makes me want to be like Don Corleone. I see Dangal and I want to be like Phogat. I see Chak De India, I want to be like Kabir Khan.

Great stories and great films stay with you for your lifetimes. I saw DDLJ when I was a kid and I can not forget, Ja Simran Ja. I saw Uncut Gems recently and I can not get Ratner (Adam Sandler) out of my head. I want to be like him. I want to go all-in on whatever I am doing, live life on the edge, have a mistress that no one knows about and all that. I saw Joker months ago and I want to be like him - you know, not know what I would do if I caught the car I was chasing! I would sing my own song and not tote the line.

If nothing else, the film has to be such a force that it keeps me hooked on the edge of my seat. Like War did. Yeah, the one with Hrithik. That War. There was no story to it and the plot was predictable but it was a visual treat. I had my eyes glued to the screen! I could not NOT see it!

Which character would I want to be? Not sure.
What would I remember? Just the house!
What did I takeaway? 2 hours of great entertainment.
Will I give it an oscar? No!

Truth be told, if the film was not as hyped (because of Palme d'Or and the Academy Award and all the acclaim), I would've come out of the theatre with even more praise! You know I was expecting a LOT more! Like a typical middle-class Indian - always asking for more!

But then, would I watch a Korean Drama if it did not get all this acclaim?
I will not have!
Thanks to the hype I saw it.
That's where I'd leave it.

So yeah, that's that. Do see the film! 

Thanks for reading,


PS: I do want to talk about a few things but that would mean giving away the plot and the story. What I write hereon assumes that you've seen the film. 


So, I've been talking to people about it and because I don't seem to find it worthy of all the acclaim, I am told that I have missed a few things. Here is a list. And my thoughts.

a, I am told it's like Slumdog. And there is this portrayal of the shocking class conflict - the difference between the rich and poor and all that. Remember that rain? The rich use that as an excuse to throw a grand party the next day when the sun is out and the poor are left to fend for their lives with nothing to salvage! They say its a social satire. Well, may be. Not to me. These differences do not shock me at all. I see that routinely. At home, at work, in public places. A Barista at Starbucks just confessed that while they get a tad more respect at a Starbucks, they still are invisible people that are not important for the world at large. And that's the fabric of the very world we live in. Some are more privileged. Some are less. 

b, When Kims barely manage to escape from the house (after the Parks come back when the campsite is flooded), why couldn't they merely disappear? Run away from it all? Why would the Kims come back to the house? All it would take is to switch off their phones and run away. You know, ghost! The Kims anyway don't have much left that they could be attached to!

c, Apparently, in the end, there is this track that has been performed by the actor himself where he discloses that it will take him 500 years to get his father out. Assuming he can't just barge in and get the guy out. Assuming the father can't merely walk-out at the dead of the night and disappear in Korea. Probably I don't understand the Korean police system. I mean it's fairly easy to commit a crime and disappear in India. May be it is not in Korea.

d, After the Parks come back, there are far too many close encounters between them and the Kims. The thing is, there were far too many of those. And there are Kims find it far too easy to escape. It's surprising that the Parks did not find anything amiss in a house where the Kims were making merry into! It's all too easy!

e, I am told that this is a classic Bong Joon Ho film. And no, I have not seen any of his other films. So, I'd let that pass.

1, Continued from above.
So, when the Kims have finally "taken over" the Park's residence, I could've left the cinema hall. There was nothing left for me to see. That is where you could have ended the story and I would have found closure and moved on. It would be a great enough victory for them - that they were living in a basement and now they sort of control a large house! That could've been their victory. I would've left the hall, if not for that incessant doorbell. The bell took way too long to ring. Could've made this part crisper, shorter, sharper. Oh, but when it did come, I was hooked! I wanted to know what going to come next. And like I said, what came next, blew my head off! 

2, Some of the fan-posters are brilliant. Here's a collection for you to ogle at. Here is my favorite...

Source - Mubi

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