WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) -
I have watched Parasite twice, and I want to say, simply, unequivocally-it is a terrific film.
When it won all the major Oscars (Picture, director, adapted screenplay-and the kicker Best International Film) at the recent Oscar ceremony, many were incensed, curious, baffled. It was the first film to win best picture in a foreign language with English Subtitles, even last year’s Roma, which won best director for Alfonso Cuaron couldn’t pull that off – although as a Netflix production it isn’t entirely a foreign production. Before I saw Parasite I thought 1917 would clinch both the director and picture awards. Director Sam Mendes won the DGA best director award and 1917 won many best picture awards including the Golden Globe and the Producer’s Guild America. I would have been fine with that, as I loved 1917. Again, this was before I saw Parasite.
After seeing Parasite, it is so obviously better than any other best picture nominee this year or for the last several years that no one should begrudge a foreign film winning an American award. Frankly, if American filmmakers could make anything this original, risky, dazzling, smart, and satisfying; a foreign film would never have to win the best picture Oscar again. I can always dream, sigh.
Set squarely in the class system of modern day South Korea, it is the story of two families, one poor (the Kims) and one rich (the parks). Through a stroke of luck, the college age Kim son (Ki-Woo) becomes a tutor for the naive, generous Park family, for their high school daughter. Living in a dreary, unsafe basement apartment where they are too poor to afford internet service and must steal wi-fi from neighbors, Ki-Woo cleverly finds a way for his unemployed, but beautiful sister, Ki-Jung to also get a job at the Parks. His unemployed parents are not far behind.
After successfully infiltrating the Park family and forming an almost symbiotic relationship with them, the Kims experience the high-life, briefly, but fate intervenes, and the plot takes a wildly bold twist about two thirds into the film.
Part black comedy, part social commentary, part psychological thriller, part tragedy: Parasite is like no other film, I have seen in a long time. Always surprising and entertaining it tackles unpleasant and brutal class system issues squarely, while never losing its momentum. It is in its outrageousness and its comedy that it is able to say things that Hollywood would do clumsily and polemically. Yet it never feels like a message film. Visually stunning and wryly acted (it also won the best acting ensemble award at the SAGS) it has totally restored my love in filmmaking. It is just that good.
Directed and co-written by Bong Joon-Ho
Now streaming on Hulu and other platforms.