This Korean multiple award-nominated, SAG Globe winning movie, Parasite, has captured the critics’ minds as it delves into the income gap, greed and class discrimination between the “one-percenter” wealthy Park family and the destitute, marginally employed Kim clan. The theme of the competitive, desperate search for wealth at one end of the income spectrum versus the content, oblivious upper-class entitlement at the other end permeates South Korean director, Bong Joon-ho’s films (“Snowpiercer” and “Mother” in particular.) This difficult theme is unusual to tackle, let alone devote one’s film career to different genre for portraying the inviting and repelling ways in which humans are not aware of each other’s choices and behavior.
The wealthy Park family live the “lux life”, mainly due to a retinue of servants and staff who allow them to pamper their daughter and son, entertain while a flood leaves many low-income residents homeless, and believe that no one wants to do them harm. The low-income Kim family has to fight their invisibility. [While Parasite does not deal with ethnic strife, it resonates with Jordan Peele’s films “Get Out” and “Us”.]
Parasite burrows deep into the dream world of the rich and the poor: for the rich, there are no problems that money can’t solve, or at least improve. For the poor, their ambitions pave the way for dreams that almost certainly cannot come true, denying that they are living off the breadcrumbs of the very rich whose lives are supported and enabled by them. And both families live in a wormhole of interwoven, interdependent lives. The characters—in their respective bubbles—can’t truly be tricked unless they want to believe. And they all do. Parasite, however, does not evoke the many shades of gray that need to be addressed.
This is an important film, because it focuses on a theme that others fear to tackle. Jordan Peele is a notable exception. My hope is for more provocative, better films in Bong Joon-ho’s future.
Note: Snowpiercer (see my August 4, 2014 review) is more memorable and soon to be made into a TNT mini-series releasing in May. Dealing with climate change as well as unconscionable income inequality, Snowpiercer’s ending takes no prisoners and has no answers.