Bong Joon Ho, is part of the Korean New Wave and writer and director of what some say is ‘Picture of the Year”. But what makes a film worthy of such a moniker? It all comes down to story (and scene moments), acting and cinematography.
Let’s take story first. Like Joker, Parasite tackles class and wage discrepancy, but this time set in Bong Joon Ho’s South Korea rather than the good ol’ USA.
Parasite, at its center, contains genius story telling, yet Bong Joon Ho still needs to par the story down in order to make a movie that moves me, or if I may be so bold to say, for ‘the audience’ in general.
Story and Acting: The film seemed promising. Bong Joon Ho’s premise that the son, played by Woo-sik Choi, be the redemptive character did indeed have pivotal incremental stages demonstrating this shift.
Yet since the son is an apathetic kid, as is his family (is this jaded mentality due to their financial circumstances or part of a South Korean mentality?) we don’t see him as the supposed main character ever hurt emotionally or psychologically. In addition, his subsequent infiltration of the upper class is far too easy lessening any impactful empathy.
Moments/Scenes: There were four meaningful moments for me which I’ll merely mention in brief as to not spoil anything:
*the scene where the original housekeeper and her husband reminisce about their more genuine appreciation for the upper class family’s house.
*gymnasium shelter talk about planning where is father tells his nihilistic philosophy that life is too chaotic to even try to plan.
*his make out scene with his student where he begins to realize he does not fit in to the aristocratic culture or that he doesn’t want to since it seems more shallow and plastic.
*the ending which I loved.
Missing for me was a hot of the son as he, his father and sister were hiding under the coffee table. Here, Joon-Ho switches to focus on the father, played by Kang-ho Song who definitely showed the biggest acting range in the movie’s totality.
So perhaps moments are truly what make a movie. While Joker was a lesser movie in story (psychopath rather than Parasite’s family of grifters), I actually had more empathy for Arthur Fleck, because the writers helped me empathize with him.
Unfortunately, Parasite, like another of Bong Joon Ho’s films, Snowpiercer, contains so many extraneous and intricate plot details, my view became too clouded to care enough about the son. Hence, I fatigued and while still enjoying Bong Joon Ho’s ideas, the film is not evocative to me.
Another example of lost opportunity is the scene early on where the son tutors the high schooler seemingly laying the foundation for the word ‘vigor’ which he certainly employed in helping his family get jobs at the same house. But this was not tied back to have the impact it could have at the movie’s end. Again, the son has the upperhand in this scene, and without suffering, he is not a useful main character.
One more point about the actors: While the father figure was definitely the stand out performer, a second impressive performance was carried out by the wealthy mother played by Yeo-jeong Jo, who I ended up feeling almost as much for as the supposed main character, the son.
Addendum-I wrote this before hearing that Bong Joon Ho built his own sets. And the creepy basement was a feat. Hence a tie in this area.
While I still think Joker set Unfortunately, Parasite is also lesser than Joker in its cinematography. Without the flood scene, and the housekeeper reminiscing scene, the only amazing visual is the gorgeous house of the wealthy family. Even “The Farewell” ‘wore cinematography better’ in giving us a glimpse into the sad urban changes to the Chinese landscape.
So I may need to be convinced by fellow podcast reviewers that Parasite is not simply a close, but no cigar.