Cannes film festival favorite Bong Joon-ho (“The Host” and “Mother”) is a gifted Korean satirist with an international sensibility for the many ways that capitalist oppression operates against citizens. You don’t need to know a thing about the social mores of South Korea to empathize with a lower class family infiltrating a wealthy family’s home in the guise of private tutors, a personal driver, and a maid. This is a familial interloper movie on a Robert Altman narrative scale.
If Americans feign condescension for welfare recipients, that knee-jerk class-aware prejudice is indisputably promoted through our capitalist propaganda that runs the gambit from movies, commercials, podcasts, news broadcasts, and from the oh-so-vocal (if inarticulate) editorial voices played on radio stations and online.
If there’s one thing the filmmakers here know, it’s that you can never underestimate people in control of their own minds. So it is that our entrepreneurial family of domestic interlopers make do in their ghetto basement hovel by folding pizza boxes to make their daily living. The Kim family fight an ongoing battle with bums who pee in their window sills. Yelling isn’t always the best option.
The family’s son Kim Ki-woo (persuasively played by Woo-sik Choi) learns from his college student pal about a family named Park in need of an English tutor for their teenage daughter Da-Hye (Jung Ziso). Ki-woo’s sister Kim Ki-jung (So-dam Park) employs advanced computer graphic skills to create a fake college diploma to assist in his job quest. Dog eat dog social-climbing strategies take hold. Behavioral skills are honed to a diamond edge as the Kim family work their way into the Park family household one by one.
Bong Joon-ho deftly shifts perspectives between the characters, enabling the audience to digest the story’s themes of alienation with different motivations in mind. Some are more noble than others. “Parasite” is an evocative title for an onion-layered filmic essay about our (humanity’s) place in social systems that reward corruption and punish poverty in not so equal measure. Every house holds secrets that can send the whole thing crashing down at any moment. If you come out of this movie thinking that the capitalist system is the invisible parasite of the story, you just might be on to something.
"Parasite" is a loving homage to interloper films such as Claude Chabrol's elegant "La Cérémonie" and Fred Schepisi's terrific adaptation of "Six Degrees of Separation." Suspense, danger, and humor are equal parts of the equation. No wonder "Parasite" won the 2019 Palme d'Or at Cannes, the film clearly deserved the honor.
Rated R. 132 mins. (A)
Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.