First Hit: I really enjoyed this story as it dives from the hilarious into the absurd.
We are introduced to this South Korean family (the Kim family) as they are getting ready to eat. The below ground level home has few street-level windows as they look up from the table to see a drunk young man peeing on a wall near their home.
We can tell the family is barely making it financially from the looks of the room, the view outside the room, and by their sparse, cryptic, and entertaining conversation. However, they seem to be engaged in their lives and hopeful because they are talking about the language of scheme making.
The family consists of the father Ki-taek (played by Song Kang-ho), the mother Chung-sook (Jang Hye-jin), the son Ki-woo (Choi Woo-shik), and the daughter Ki-woo (Park So-dam).
Ki-woo’s friend Min-hyuk (Park Seo-joon) comes by their home, wanting to give Ki-woo a present. It is a rock sculpture that is supposed to bring economic well-being. Because Min-hyuk has to leave town for a while, he tells Ki-woo about a tutoring gig he wants him to take over while he’s gone. The subject of his tutoring is a rich high school girl named Park Dye-hye (Jung Ji-so). Dye-hye’s mother, Park Yeon-kyo (Jo Yeo-jeong), Min-hyuk says, isn’t too bright, so he should easily pass the interview. Ki-woo expresses his worries that he’ll be found out and may not be good enough, but Min-hyuk assures him that even though he’s only got a high school education, he’ll dazzle the ditzy Mrs. Park.
When asking Min-hyuk why he’s giving him this offer, Min-hyuk explains that he didn’t want one of his college friends doing the gig because he loves this girl, wants to date her when she’s out of high school and knows that Ki-woo is a true friend and wouldn’t cross him in this way.
Arriving at the Park home, he’s let in by the housekeeper Gook Moon-gwang (Lee Jung-eun). Walking through the house, he’s amazed at what a sizeable beautiful home it is. It’s very modern and filled with all the luxuries he’s never known and only dreamed about. The interview with Mrs. Park goes very well, and he’s hired to tutor Dye-hye. Noticing artwork around the home, he asks about it. The mother explains that it is her wild son who shoots bows and arrows around the house. But he’s also an artist and Mrs. Park thinks her son could be compared to the Andy Warhol anointed artist Jean-Michael Basquiat.
Seeing an opportunity and because the family is wealthy and pays well, he says he may know of a young woman who is an Art Therapist that could work with the boy to become a great artist. Getting home, he tells his family about this and his sister is ready to do her part and take on a new role as Art Teacher and Therapist.
I’ll leave the rest to your imagination, but let’s just say the family all participates in this adventure.
But when the wealthy family takes a camping vacation, and the old housekeeper comes to collect something she left behind, the whole story starts to turn towards the macabre.
Parasite is a perfect name for the film, and it is not easy to pin down all the aspects this film offers the viewer. As it won the Cannes Palme d’Or for best film and I can see why.
Song, as the patriarch of the Kim family, was exquisite in embodying this character. Early in the film, when he announces that they need to leave the windows open when the street fumigators come down the street, I knew I was in for a ride. It was perfect for setting up his mindset. His silent looks while driving Mr. Park around after he learns that the Park’s think he and his family smell, are spot on. Jo was excellent as Mrs. Park. Her expressions when buying into the stories shared Ki-woo and Ki-jung were priceless. She was the perfect foil and focal point of the Park family. Choi was terrific as the Kim family young man. His wistful story at the end of the film about finding his father was excellent. Park was sublime as the Kim family daughter turned instant Art Therapist. Her embodying the story she made up for herself was funny, engaging, and perfect. Jang, as mother to the Kim children, made me laugh. Her actions and responses during the opening scenes while the family was eating were scene-stealing. Lee Sun-kyun was outstanding as Mr. Park. His command of the family as he waltzed in from work was evident and clearly identified who was in charge of the Park family. Lee Jung-eun, as the housemaid for the Park family, was engaging. Her arriving back to collect what she left in the basement under the kitchen opened the door for the film to move to another level. Bong Joon-ho and Han Jin-won wrote a wildly entertaining screenplay that had both funny and dark edges. Joon-ho was outstanding directing this film. Some of the shots, especially as the family tried to get back home during a major storm, told much of the story. The direct downward view of the slums in which they lived, being flooded, was telling. Just as the shots of the luxurious home where they worked were just the opposite; clean, crisp, and wonderfully shot with various angles.
Overall: This is a contender for Best Foreign Film and maybe even Best Picture.