Parasite: The Movie We Didn't Know We Needed

As Oscar season approaches, the Oscar bait movies are in full force. Theatres are filled with movies that are based on true stories, books, and real people’s lives with performances conducted by world-renowned actors and actresses. Judy with Renée Zellweger, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood with Tom Hanks, and Little Women are all considered to be Academy Award front-runners, but they are nothing new. Movies based on books and real stories with actors and actresses everybody knows can be extremely captivating and entertaining; however, they pander to what the Academy wants. Roles with big names based on well-known figures or classic novels retold for a more modern audience typically win big awards. 

Simply look at this past year’s nominees and winners. Although it was a standout performance, Lady Gaga’s A Star Is Born is based off of a storyline and character that had been done twice previously. Bohemian Rhapsody, another big Oscar winner, is based on a real life superstar who people have known about for years. Vice and Green Book are true stories, while The Wife and If Beale Street Could Talk were books. These films feature noteworthy performances, but they tell stories that people know and have heard before.

This year, things might change with Parasite, a South Korean film directed by Bong Joon-ho, the director known for Snowpiercer and Okja. This film is making major waves in the film world due to its originality and thrilling plot twist; it even won the Palme d’Or, the top award at the Cannes Film Festival. When it made its debut in the United States, it sold out its opening screenings in New York City, leaving people to take to Twitter to complain about not getting in. 

Parasite delves into the lives of two families living completely different lives in South Korea: the Kim family, who struggles day-to-day to make ends meet while working odd jobs, versus the Park family, who lives a life of luxury and bliss in a huge house, gated off. Slowly, the members of the Kim family find their way into the Park family home through different jobs such as an English tutor, an art therapist, a driver, and a housekeeper. Meanwhile, the Park family have no idea they are related. The setting, the house in which the lower-class family infiltrates, almost becomes a character itself.

The film uses entertaining dark humor in its dialogue, and is beautiful to watch on-screen with its many wide angle camera shots juxtaposing claustrophobic scenes with wide open and spacious ones. Even a first-time viewer of Bong Joon-ho films can tell that he is obsessed with detail and portraying things in a realistic way. He shows how wretched living impoverished can truly be, while also showing how gullible rich people can get from living lives closed off from destitution. This film tackles the issue of class oppression while taking audiences on one of the most thrilling visual rollercoasters of this year. The trailer itself is ominous and dark, but it is not telling; it is completely open-ended. The most magical part of this film is that no matter how much research one thinks they’ve done, they will be shocked by the twists and turns Bong masterfully created through his playful, morose, and quick-witted narrative.

Parasite features outstanding performances by Choi Woo-shik, Park So-dam, Choi Yeo-jeong, and Song Kang-ho, a man who is no stranger to Bong Joon-ho films. Even though it is a story told in Korean and translated to Western audiences through subtitles, viewers can feel every emotion and sarcastic jab through their expressions and vocal tones. 

This film is eerie with its commentary on timely social themes, but the humor and thrilling nature makes it an extremely entertaining watch; words fail to do it justice. This movie is nothing that has been seen before, and it is filled with surprises that nobody sees coming. It leaves viewers staggering out of theatres because it quite literally doesn’t let go just like the title suggests. It is unpredictable and makes a statement so large that Western media cannot ignore it this upcoming awards season.