Sunday, January 26, 2020
Directed by Bong Joon-ho and screenplay by Joon-ho and Han Jin-won from a story by Joon-ho, Parasite is the story of a poor family whose adult son gets a job as a tutor for rich woman and her family as they scheme to take jobs as highly qualified individuals. The film is an exploration of social classes where a poor family gets a look into the world of the rich and try inhabit that world while making an unsettling discovery. Starring Song Kang-Ho, Lee Sun-kyun, Cho Yeo-jeong, Choi Woo-shik, Park So-dam, and Chang Hyae-jin. Parasite is a riveting and intoxicating film from Bong Joon-ho.
The film is the simple story of a poor family whose son is given a job from a friend of his to tutor a teenage girl from a rich family as he would befriend the family and get his parents and sisters jobs pretending to be highly-qualified workers. It’s a film with a simple premise yet it is more of an exploration of different social classes and how one family yearns to have the life this rich family have as they still struggle with living in a small apartment in a poor environment. The film’s screenplay by Bong Joon-Ho and Han Jin-won follow the life of the Kim family as they share this small and cramped apartment trying to get by through odd jobs including making pizza boxes for a local pizza company. When a friend of Ki-woo (Choi Woo-shik) in Min-hyuk (Park Seo-joon) arrives with a gift for the Kim family in a scholar rock as well as giving Ki-woo his job as an English tutor for a teenage girl as he’s going away to study abroad. Ki-woo accepts his friend’s offer while Ki-woo’s sister Ki-jeong (Park So-dam) creates false documents about Ki-woo’s credentials as a tutor.
Ki-woo meets Yeon-gyo Park (Cho Yeo-jeong) whose husband Dong-ik (Lee Sun-kyun) is a revered architect while their teenage daughter Da-hye (Jeong Ji-so) is struggling in high school as Ki-woo helps her as he gets accepted by Yeon-gyo. Noticing the Park’s youngest son in Da-song (Jung Hyeon-jun), Ki-woo suggests in getting an art tutor/art therapist to help with Da-song as Ki-jeong poses as the art teacher. Through a series of events, Ki-jeong gets the Park’s chauffer Yoon (Park Geun-rok) fired so that her father Ki-taek (Song Kang-ho) can get the job while his wife Chung-sook (Chang Hye-jin) eventually becomes the housekeeper following a scheme to the get the Park’s longtime housekeeper Moon-gwang Gook (Lee Jung-eun) fired. Just as the Kim family seems to enjoy their new life and finding ways to improve their own lifestyle, a secret within the house starts to emerge as it would shatter everything they worked for. Even as it forces Ki-taek to come to terms with the life he wanted and the life he already has but also a growing disconnect between the two world of the rich and poor.
Joon-ho’s direction is definitely entrancing in not just the world and home the Park family live in but also the dilapidated environment of the Kim family. Shot on location around Seoul and parts of Jeonju, the film definitely play up to this world between the lower-working class of the Kims and the upper-class world of the Parks. Joon-ho does use wide shots to not just a scope of the locations but also how vast the home of the Parks is that includes a big living room and backyard while much of Joon-ho’s compositions are tighter with medium shots and close-ups at the home of the Kims. Notably in the lack of space as well as the fact that there’s always a drunk person who urinates in front of their home onto a pile of garbage. Joon-ho’s usage of tracking shots add to the atmosphere of the Parks’ home in the way characters move from room to room as well in some of the film’s suspenseful moments.
Joon-ho also adds this air of tranquility in the home of the Parks where the Kims would inhabit all of its splendor during a day when the Parks are out of town. It is a moment in the film as it play into the Kims’ desire for a life that is better but know that it is only fleeting when a major discovery occurs within the house as it changes everything. It also raises questions into the idea of social divide as it intensifies when the Kims come home and things go on as if nothing happened. All of the planning that Ki-woo had created with his family suddenly become questioned with Ki-taek also wondering about the Parks and their lifestyle in contrast to the life he and his family has. Joon-ho maintains this atmosphere of social disconnect as its climax is about a family trying to understand its identity as well as the identity of the home they’re inhabiting as it lead to chaos. Overall, Joon-ho crafts an evocative yet eerie film about a poor family inhabiting the world and home of a rich family.
Cinematographer Hong Kyung-pyo does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography as it help create some different color schemes such as the usage of low-key and grimy lighting for the scenes at the home of the Kims and their surroundings that is in sharp contrast to the more naturalistic exteriors at the Park’s home with some unique lighting for the interiors at their home. Editor Yang Jin-mo does amazing work with the editing as it help play into some of the drama and suspense with its usage of jump-cuts and other stylish cuts while using rhythmic cuts for some of the film’s humorous moments. Production designer Lee Ha-jun and set decorator Cho Won-Woo do excellent work with the look of the home of the Park family with its spacious living room, stylish kitchen, a highly-organized garage/basement, and clean bedrooms that is the opposite of the grimy and claustrophobic home of the Kims. Costume designer Choi Se-yeon does fantastic work with the costumes from the clean-cut and stylish clothes of the Parks to the more ragged look of the Kims while they would wear more posh-like clothing upon working with the Parks.
Hair/makeup designer Young Kim Seo does nice work with the look of the characters including the more refined look that the Kims would sport upon working for the Parks. The special effects work of Jung Do-ahn and Park Kyung-soo, with visual effects supervisor Jeong Ho Hong, do terrific work with the special effects that is mainly bits of set dressing that include some of the sunny exteriors at the Parks’ backyard as well as some shots from the cellphones the characters often carry. The sound work of Choi Tae-young is superb in creating the atmosphere in the film’s locations as well as the air of ambiance at the home of the Parks that is removed from some of the chaos in the city along with some of the more disturbing moments that would occur during its third act. The film’s music by Jung Jae-il is incredible for its somber piano-based orchestral score as it play into the sense of wonderment as well as some of the melancholia that occurs along with some eerie moments of suspense as it is a highlight of the film. Music supervisor Park Hyoshin provides a wonderful soundtrack that features some classical pieces as well as contemporary music that plays in the background including a song co-written by Joon-ho in the film’s final credits.
The film’s marvelous cast feature some notable small roles and appearances from Park Seo-joon as Ki-woo’s friend Min-hyuk who gives Ki-woo his tutoring job, Jung Yi-seo as the pizza place manager, Park Guen-rok as the chauffer Yoon, and Park Myung-hoon as a mysterious man that Da-song thinks is a ghost. Lee Jung-eun is terrific as the housekeeper Gook Moon-gwang as the Parks’ original housekeeper who has a strange allergy while is also involved with a big mysterious secret at the house while Jung Hyeon-jun is superb as the Parks’ youngest child in Da-song who is fascinated by Native Americans and creates some unique drawings. Jeong Ji-so is wonderful as the Park’s teenage daughter Da-hye as young girl trying to learn English as she is pursued by Min-hyuk yet starts to fall for Ki-woo. Lee Sun-kyun and Cho Yeo-jeong are fantastic in their respective roles as Dong-ik and Yeon-gyo Park as the rich couple with the former as a revered architect and the latter as a simple housewife who is trying to run a household as she is easily swayed by the Kim’s scheme.
Park So-dam is excellent as Ki-jeong as the Kim adult daughter who is good at creating forged documents and such while also knows about art as she teaches Da-song about art while making observations about his work. Chang Hyae-jin is brilliant as Chung-sook as the Park matriarch who spends much of her time cleaning while being the one to discover a major secret at the house. Choi Woo-shik is amazing as Ki-woo as the Kim adult son who is smart but unable to pass exams where he takes the tutoring job for a friend while he would scheme his way to get his family to get work only for things to become troubling. Finally, there’s Song Kang-ho in an incredible performance as Ki-taek as the Kim patriarch who is hoping to get his family out of their life as he would eventually fill in as the Park chauffer where he enjoys the job but becomes troubled by what he discovered at the Park family home as he later deals with the disconnect between his family’s world and the Park’s family lifestyle.
Parasite is a tremendous film from Bong Joon-ho. Featuring an incredible cast, dazzling visuals, an intriguing study of social classes and lifestyles, a mixture of comedy and suspense, and an intoxicating music score by Jung Jae-il. It’s a film that explore this unique world of social classes as well as a poor family trying to inhabit the world of the upper class while being reminded of where they come from. In the end, Parasite is a spectacular film from Bong Joon-ho.
Bong Joon-ho Films: Barking Dogs Never Bite - Memories of Murder - The Host (2006 film) - Tokyo!-Shaking Tokyo - Mother (2009 film) - Snowpiercer - Okja - The Auteurs #44: Bong Joon-ho
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