Film review: The #BongHive is truly alive with the thrilling Parasite

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★★★★☆

You’ve been hearing all about Bong Joon-ho’s latest genre-spliced thriller Parasite for months, but how is it beyond the discourse?

If you’ve been anywhere near Twitter this past month or so, it’s been hard to avoid the high praise and excitement that has come alongside the imminent release of South Korean director Bong Joon-ho’s thrilling new film Parasite.

The energy surrounding this release has reached utterly frantic levels of enthusiasm (and occasional hyperbole), after a Palme d’Or triumph at Cannes kicked off a string of awards nominations culminating in the biggest of the lot, a surprising Best Picture nomination at the 92nd Academy Awards, which takes place this Sunday.

At the centre of this social media whirlwind has been director Bong Joon-ho, now immortalised in memes and gifs galore. The highest of all film honours.

#BongHive

But take any path on Twitter and you’re likely to experience the most base of human emotions, with threads, comments and tweets filled with rage and fury, racism, sexism, jealousy… you name it, there’s a tweet for it. It’s perhaps appropriate then that Twitter has been a huge selling tool for a film that revels in the squalor of the underground.

The basement-dwelling Kim family are jobless, luckless and, when they can’t pick it up from their neighbours… wifi-less. But what the family lack in wealth, they more than make up for in ambition. When an opportunity arises for son Ki-woo to take up a tutoring job with the wealthy Park family, the Kim’s take little time in infiltrating the whole household.

#Actlikeyouowntheplace

Ki-woo’s sister Ki-jung conveniently seems to be the perfect candidate to nurture the artistic “talent” of the Park’s young, eccentric son Da-song. Meanwhile, some nifty yet nasty trickery enables father Ki-taek and mother Chung-sook to soon embed themselves in the Park’s life, ousting the Park’s devoted housekeeper and their new driver.

YouTube video

It’s telling that for “families like the Kims…advancement under capitalism involves beating out their peers for limited opportunities”. Instead of an uprising against the haves, it’s increasingly a battle for the scraps between the havenots. Here the Kim’s win out, undertaking roles that allow them near full access to the Park family and their house. A full infiltration. They begin to share the same spaces. The Kim’s exist in the seams, and the Park’s wealth is merely paper over cracks.

“Although the title is Parasite, I think the story is about coexistence, and how we can all live together.” – Bong Joon-ho

But it’s not just this social commentary and critique of capitalist structures that makes Parasite such a universal movie. At its most basic, the film is thrilling, surprising and fun. It’s meticulously crafted, with just two major settings providing the grounding for a freewheeling story that playfully dips in and out of moods.

This craft is theatrical in its basis. The film came about after director Bong Joon-ho was asked to write a piece for the stage. But with the script morphing into a screenplay, many of these more theatrical elements remained. The Shakespearian mishaps and misunderstandings, and the hide & seek, horror/thriller tension comes from the audience having the upper hand and the bigger picture. Still, Bong retains just enough control to subvert the audience’s expectations right until the very end.

“If you think about it, my films are always based on misunderstanding—the audience is the one who knows more, and the characters have a difficult time communicating with each other.”– Bong Joon-ho

And so what began as a stage-play becomes a near-perfect cinematic experience. But the film isn’t without its faults. I don’t think it’s as funny as it’s made out to be. There’s a definite The Favourite syndrome here, with the dark-comedy being vastly overhyped, but this seems to come with the territory. They’re always “hilarious” when what you really have are a couple of jokes and some chuckles. It’s also not particularly subtle. It felt, rather fittingly, like being bludgeoned with the words CAPITALISM IS BAD. It’s also not better than Uncut Gems.

But these are minor, and somewhat personal issues, with what is an incredibly enjoyable and refreshing film, and one that offers the Academy a chance to start anew after last year’s farcical Best Picture winner.

#parasite #actlikeyouowntheplace #bonghive #BongJoonHo #parasitemovie #koreancinema #asianstyle

You can book tickets for Parasite at The Electric, Birmingham now and at The Mockingbird later in February. 


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