My review for Bong Joon Ho’s totally bonkers morality tale about social status and economic disparity can be summed up in a single word: Respect. Once you’ve seen Parasite—and you definitely should—the significance of this singular pronouncement will become vividly clear. Imagine the premise and empathy of Hirokazu Koreeda’s Shoplifters, but with the genre-defying tone and brash ambition of Jordan Peele’s Us. Such is Parasite, a work of maniacal cinematic genius.
Outrageously funny and thrilling, Parasite is best experienced with as little foreknowledge of the narrative and premise as possible. Which makes it rather difficult to offer a proper review, doesn’t it? Indeed, there was a conversation about movie spoilers at Cannes, with both Quentin Tarantino and Joon Ho writing public letters to the press imploring—Joon Ho uses the word “pleading”—not to give away the late reveals and plot twists in their in-competition films. But this has always been the tension in art criticism: how does one accurately describe and critique not only the art itself, but the experience of the art—its effects and affects, its form and content?
I had mixed feelings about Joon Ho’s previous fantastical sci-fi efforts The Host, Snowpiercer, and Okja mostly due to their outlandish madcap style, as well as their heavy-handed allegorical messages about class divisions and environmental care. So I loved Parasite’s seemingly paradoxical subtlety and showiness, its layers of metaphorical meaning in the midst of mayhem.
With a title like Parasite, one might expect there to be some sort of lurking creature or alien lifeforce, akin to Jessica Hausner’s excellent Little Joe. But Joon Ho abandons the sci-fi genre entirely, anchoring the narrative in down-to-earth circumstances (albeit with signature Joon Ho wackiness and black humor). It’s a tragicomedy, a hilarious horror, and a family drama, all somehow maintaining its integrity. In other words, Joon Ho upends any sense of categorization or what a film is “supposed” to do. It’s absolutely thrilling to watch, mostly due to the suspense and mystery, but also because we can sense that we’re watching something revolutionary unfold before us, that the boundaries and definitions of what cinema can be and do are expanding right before our eyes.
IMDB Listing: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt6751668/