Ever wondered what it would be like to intertwine with the lives of the rich? Let the Kim family show you.
Poor and loyal, the Kim family find themselves engaging in devious but harmless manipulation to leech the lifestyle of a naive but unfathomably upper-class family. The Kim’s increasing greed and the undeniable class distinctions lead to growing tension between the two families’ constructed symbiotic relationship.
Parasite is a black comedy directed by South Korean mastermind Bong Joon-Ho. The film begins by introducing the Kim family in their destitute slum of a semi-basement home. Their life is cramped, filthy, and overrun with difficulty. With frequent floods and the lovely view of drunken stupors urinating out their low-set window, the Kim clan shares a bond that can only exist among such rancid conditions. Mother and father Ki-Taek (Kang-Ho Song) and Chung-sook (Jang Hye-Jin) have taught their children, son Ki-Woo (Choi Woo-Shik) and daughter Ki-Jung (Park So-Dam), how to utilize the odd ends of life to make it through. Because of their conditions, the family has become quick-witted and incredibly efficient with very little resources. Ki-Woo is told about an opportunity to tutor the daughter, Da-Hye (Jeong Ji-So), of extremely wealthy Yeon-Kyo (Cho Yeo-Jong) and her husband (Lee Sun-Kyun). Without the qualifications, Ki-Woo and artful Ki-Jung decide to create fake credentials from Yonsei University needed for him to land the position. Once the Park family hire him as a tutor for their daughter, this is when the satisfyingly entertaining and comical farce enfolds. Ki-Woo recommends Ki-Jung as an art therapist for the families’ youngest son Da-Song (Jeong Hyun-Joon), who then recommends Ki-Taek as a chauffeur, who then recommends Chung-Sook as a maid. By the middle of the film, every Kim member has infiltrated the Park families’ beautiful mansion, using their street smarts to mesh into an upper-class life they themselves have never before experienced. The genuine relationships that begin to build are heavily tested when a mysterious secret within the basement of the mansion is revealed.
Parasite provides an absolutely fantastic story that combines comedy, tragedy, suspense and a large amount of thrill. As we are introduced to the Kim family, the essence of their lifestyle is immediately palpable. Despite their poor circumstances, the family shows an undeniable tenacity and a level of intelligence somewhat surprising considering they fold pizza boxes to get food on the table. Right from the beginning, we are rooting for this family to live a life that matches their quick minds. As Ki-Wook begins bringing his family into the Park establishment one-by-one we are filled with glee that the rich clan, who has life fed to them on a silver spoon, is oblivious to the support they are providing to people whom they look down on so vehemently.
This film provides a distinct message regarding socioeconomic status which is a common theme in Bong Joon-Ho’s works as well as throughout the South Korean entertainment industry at large. With the Kim family building genuine relationships with the Parks, the comedy subsides and a dark message emerges. As the rich family continually makes nasty remarks toward those of lesser class, the parasitic infiltrators begin feeling a deep sense of displacement and, especially for Ki-Taek, a burning resentment. As the wealthy couple sneers at the smell of “people who ride the subway,” they begin pointing their noses at their newly discovered workers, eerily sensing a smell of those who are less-than.
Throughout the film, the imagery is paralleled to this theme of socioeconomic divide. The Kim family must descend into their home below ground level while the Park family ascends up their polished, modern stairs to their mansion in the clouds. Just as the Kim family becomes more insecure toward their status seemingly beginning to secrete from their pores, they discover a tragic secret within the basement of the mansion. Turns out, they are not the only ones living below that of the wealthy bigots. As Ki-Taek realizes just how far below the rest of the world is from this disturbingly privileged, naive, and judgmental family, his anger explodes into a shocking course of action that will not only leave his family ousted from the upper class lifestyle for good, but also leave him further beneath those of higher status than he had ever been before.
Parasite leaves us with a narrative that not only provides laughter and connection to the struggles the Kim family faces but also gets us thinking about the class divides that exist all throughout our varied societies. As the imagery creates a literal low-class and upper-class world, it becomes clear that those on the bottom have a difficult time ever finding their way to the top. Because of the complexity of the theme that shines throughout the subtle nuances, Parasite made Academy Award history by winning four Oscars during the 2020 award show including best picture, the first time a South Korean film had ever won in any category. With a rather sad message laced throughout it’s comedic approach, Parasite reveals to us that those below may only be able to raise themselves higher with manipulation, and even then may still end up lower than those on top — perhaps even lower than where they started. This film urges us to look at our countries critically and be conscious of economic divides that should be fought through policy and ideals whether in our own country or a small country in Asia that is creating a prominent name for itself within the U.S. entertainment industry.
Release Date: October 5, 2019
Cast: Choi Woo-Shik, Park So-Dam, Kang-Ho Song, Jang Hye-Jin, Cho Yeo-Jong, Jeong Ji-So, Lee Sun-Kyun, Jeong Hyun-Joon, Lee Jeong-Eun, Park Myung-Hoon.
Distributor: CJ Entertainment
Director: Bong Joon-Ho
Genre: Thriller, Dark Comedy
Runtime: 132 minutes
Official Website: Parasite Movie
Official Social Media Pages:
IMDB Page: Parasite (2019)
Wiki Link: Parasite (2019 Film)
Kira Proctor | Writing Contributor
B.A. | Communications | UCLA
Kira, named after the fairy from The Dark Crystal, is a second-year transfer at UCLA graduating with a B.A. in Communication. Like her namesake, she grew up with her mind in a fantasy world. Indulging in whimsical films (preferably animated), television, novels and music that transports oneself, she is passionate about the entertainment industry creating imaginary spaces for all to visit that let everyday stressors melt away. With a particular interest in storytelling and live performances, she has interned for companies such as TEDx, Girlie Action Media, and ran her own segment on UCLA Radio providing reviews of salient albums or live events. With experience in global relations, Kira has studied the entertainment industry in both the U.S. and South Korea. This gave her unique experiences as to how storytelling can manifest itself visually or auditorily throughout different cultures, creating hope and happiness within people across the globe in distinct yet familiar ways. In her spare time, you can catch Kira at a riveting concert, traveling, watching anything by Studio Ghibli, or at Disneyland! Instagram: @kira_ann1|| View My Articles
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