By Casey Campbell
Parasite won Best Picture at the Academy Awards, as well as Best International Feature Film. But everyone knows that. And most have seen it already. But I hadn’t! Thankfully it’s streaming on Hulu!
Parasite is one of those movies that got hyped up beyond any reasonable measure leading up to its release, thanks to its Palme d’Or win at Cannes. Then it was nominated for a boat load of Oscars, and the rest is history. Despite such a lofty reputation, I managed to stay away from spoilers and even a general plot overview. I had no clue what I was getting into, other than it having to be a super duper great movie and that it may have whiffs of class consciousness.
Having now watched it, I can safely say it’s a great movie! Congratulations Bong Joon Ho, The Film Tent dug your art! The extra fun thing is that I think I can offer a decent run down of the reasons it’s a great movie without giving up any plot information.
Parasite works in a way that any Rian Johnson movie wishes it could, and I say that as a fan of Johnson’s work. Throughout the story, there are many places where a twist or a realization could be made about either of the central families (one rich, the other poor; the Park’s and the Kim’s respectively). In vague terms, you think something has to happen, because that’s what other movies would do! And then, a twist does occur, but it’s from left field and in a way that operates on the same level as the commentary and characters. The twist doesn’t happen only because it would be an engaging addition, but also because it informs the situation that these people are stuck in. For context, it’s the scene where the Kim family gets drunk in the living room. In many ways, this is the pivotal scene in the movie. In addition, this is a beautiful microcosm of the entire film.
Spoilers from here on out.
Up until the rich Park family embarks on their ill-fated camping trip, the movie had been driving at a ludicrously entertaining pace. Again, I knew nothing about the movie before watching it, so I was super interested to see what could happen in the remaining hour. First, the old maid shows up at the door. ‘Don’t let her in,’ I thought to myself. Nothing good could come from that. And then, of course, they let her in. She told them she needed to get down to the basement, where we get a hilarious yet alarming shot of the maid parallel to the ground pushing a heavy cabinet with her feet planted on the wall.
After the cabinet moves, a door is discovered. Then, the movie takes on a creepy tone, replete with shrill music and anxiety inducing photography as the camera delves deep into the shelter hidden away under the house. It turns out the old maid had been hiding her own family in the house, in the form of her deeply indebted husband, and had been doing so for years. Thus arises the first really neat twist of the film. The “parasitic” family moving in on the Parks sees a similarly poor family, and they think to call the police so they can have the Park family to themselves. It’s sad and stressful and understandable all at the same time. Each character is so human that while they all do really bad things, you still can’t help but to root for them.
By the end of the sequence, which felt like it lasted an hour but that can’t be right, the family ties up the maid and husband and has to hide from the Parks as they arrive much sooner than expected thanks to a freak storm. The storm is really the turning point in the movie. It ends the Parks trip, destroys the Kim family’s home by flooding it, and introduces the basement bunker and the other family. It also pushes the film toward it’s bombastic conclusion, which is rife with blunt commentary on class division.
Parasite is a moving and engagingly entertaining film that I’m shocked was able to win at the Oscars. The film is, after all, a major indictment on the rich and the only way to really make waves at the Oscars is to throw as much money at the Academy as possible. And that seems antithetic to the message and meaning of the movie. Either way, I’m glad it’s been popular and successful. More movies should be this thrilling.