In every way, director and writer Joon-ho Bong has made ‘Parasite’ in every which way a comedy, thriller, and socio-political commentary with a surprising dramatic turn. There are many amazing things that Joon-ho Bong does with the material from presenting it first as a biting comedy before turning it completely around halfway through the film and turning it into a genuine suspense-thriller, or in the way that he crafts such likable characters who happen to do such horrible things.
Afterall, ‘Parasite’ is about the unemployed Kim family, who manages to find themselves with the opportunity to scam the wealthy and rather gullible Park family. Through a series of lies and heinous acts, they insert themselves into the Park family’s lives and live off through their kindness, naivete, and wealth until one evening, it all comes back to haunt them in a way that shifts the film from a funny scam movie into an edge-of-your-seat thriller with very dire consequences.
We take the point-of-view of the Kim family, each one brilliant in their own way and very competent liars with very little moral compass. We see them as they work their con on the Park family, but Joon-ho Bong manages to infuse them with so much humanity — a familiarity that we easily recognise as individuals and as a family unit — that we can’t help but like them.
There is a strong directorial maneuvering that highlights the contrasts between the Kim’s home and the Park’s home and the disparity of their economic status and the frivolity of the Park’s way of life and mentality. The film is crafted in such a way that it triggers any natural sense of balance within us that we easily find humor in the way the Kim’s take advantage of the Park’s insane sense of wealth and entitlement.
But throughout the film, I found myself questioning why I find this narrative funny when the only real crime (if you can call it that) that the Park’s did was be a little frivolous with their whims, their relationships, and their wealth. It’s this tension that makes ‘Parasite’ so engaging.
But it even brings it up a notch when the film shifts dramatically into a thriller halfway and it opens up a larger can of worms about social inequality in Korea and all of the film’s symbolic imagery and narrative points rise to the surface.
The performances here is superb, from Joon-ho Bong regular Kang-ho Song as the Kim patriarch to Hyae Jin Jang, who plays the mother. Also, the Park matriarch, played by Yeo-jeong Jo, is a wonderful character sketch of the affluent but simple-minded.
What’s incredible about ‘Parasite’ is that it blends the film’s narrative so seamlessly with its symbolisms; it makes such powerful statements about social inequality and pokes fun at both ends of the social class spectrum without ever showing its hand. The film is completely in tune with telling its story but it’s just that the story, as it is written, with all its hilarious moments and even its big, surprising set pieces is geared to put into the spotlight its politically-charged messages about society.
‘Parasite’ is a wonderfully crafted film with a magnificent tonal shift that shocks you right as you are laughing your head off with the precision of its first comedic half. It strikes home with its powerful dramatic ending that will evoke so many thoughts about the world we live in and what people are capable of doing when they feel they have no other recourse.