Wednesday, December 11, 2019

OSCAR WATCH: Parasite


Of all the memorable movie moments of 2019, there's one in particular that I haven't been able to shake. It comes in a climactic scene in Bong Joon-ho's ingenious social satire "Parasite", as class revolt within the narrative comes to ahead in response to a insulting gesture. Though the film pits the %1 against the disadvantaged poor, this scene's power comes from the way it forces middle class audiences to confront our own insensitivities.

Elaborating further on the scene would unfortunately ruin one of the film's key attributes. Indeed, "Parasite" succeeds largely on its suspenseful and utterly unpredictable screenplay. While its premise may seem like a variation of Robin Hood's "stealing from the rich to give to the poor" premise, it reveals much deeper levels as the plot unfolds.

The story surrounds two families, the wealthy Parks and the unemployed Kims. Desperate to find work, they get a lifeline when the son Ki-woo secures a tutoring job for the Parks, through the recommendation of a friend. Ever the opportunist, his arrival at their upscale home quickly sets off a light bulb in his head. Before long, he schemes to get the rest of his family to infiltrate the home by offering various household services. But the Park home harbors secrets which could completely derail their plans.

Bringing new meaning to social hierarchy with its darkly comic take on the "upstairs, downstairs trope", Bong Joon-ho's "Parasite" offers an incisive critique of class in South Korea. Much like his previous genre-inflected social satire "Snowpiercer", Bong Joon-ho uses entertaining scenarios to convey his message. As the Kims speedily take advantage of the opportunities presented to them, "Parasite" is crafted with the blistering pacing and brilliant dialogue to match. And through the efforts of a superb ensemble, the personas they embody further emphasize the wide chasm between the classes. As the mother of the Kim clan remarks of her aloof Park counterpart, she is "nice because she's rich."

As the plot twists and turns to thrilling effect, Bong Joon Ho never loses sight of the film's central anti-capitalist themes. Conveyed visually and verbally with the utmost panache, the result is a film which is universally relevant and impactful. It's therefore no surprise that it's receiving serious Oscar consideration for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Editing, Best Production Design and Best International Feature. With its strong social commentary and thrilling storytelling,  "Parasite" is truly one of the year's must-see films.

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