(A Spoiler-Free Review)
Within the 130 minute run time of Parasite, the new Bong Joon-ho film, there are two wonderful movies: a dark comedy and a creepy, crawly thriller. Whereas the first will make you laugh nervously, the second will make you nervously laugh, curl into a little ball, and pray to the powers that be you remembered to lock your doors.
The film follows the uphill climb of a poor family in a town metaphorically stratified by social class: The rich at the top, everyone else below them. So metaphorical! The family (father, mother, son, daughter) struggles to make ends meet while living in a semi-basement; it’s a big day for them when they can leave their windows open and co-opt a municipal extermination.
One day, the son, Ki-woo is approached by his friend, Min-hyuk, with an opportunity to teach the high school-aged daughter of a rich family. It pays well, the house is magic, why not? The rich family employs several workers – an art tutor for their son, a driver, and a housekeeper – and Ki-woo recognizes the opportunity almost immediately. Why shouldn’t his family assume these roles?
The first half of the film, as Ki-woo conspires to bring his family into the fold, is played for laughs. And it is genuinely funny, if maybe a little dark. Hey, you can’t cook an omelette without first cracking a few eggs. Of course, the mood soon changes and the film really takes off. It’s a thriller to the nth degree, cover-your-eyes-at-times tense, but not without something to say.
No spoilers here, of course, other than to say those familiar with the director’s work (he’s the co-writer here) will know the focus of his crosshairs. I found the whole thing exceedingly clever, powerful, and interpretative, more than enough to inspire future viewings. It’s a story that surprises, one that bested me in my theatrical viewing. But one I ultimately think hides its secrets in plain site. Another watch to unpack things is almost mandatory.