Using a narrative that gradually builds momentum through a series of hustles and surprises, Parasite is utterly unpredictable. It’s a memorable flick not only for its mind-bending story, but because director Bong Joon-ho (The Host , Snowpiercer, Okja) has reinvented the farce formula with this Palme d’Or award-winner.
Struggling to make ends meet, an impoverished Korean family senses a lucrative opportunity after their youngest male is hired as an English tutor for an upper-class family. Once the son – who has embellished on his own traits to fill the position – has earned trust, the rest of his family are brought on to occupy miscellaneous roles around the wealthy household. They pretend to have no relation to each other but, when they return home, they plot additional ways to benefit from their new jobs. But when they become too ambitious with their latest trick, their overall plan starts to fold in on them.
The farce structure is used to generate laughs at the expense of the hustlers and the fools of Parasite. But, Bong Joon-ho’s effort truly pays off when he re-routes the narrative to take the form of a crime drama/thriller. It’s a method that works incredibly well to raise the stakes for these characters and challenge the ensemble. But when this vision is used to comment on classism and its duelling status quo, the results are fairly basic. Then again, there seems to be a hesitancy by Bong Joon-ho to make these themes a central focus. He’s a talented filmmaker who would rather weave a story instead of settling for blunt messaging. It’s why the unsubtle last act, which is a full-on shift towards shameless decisions made by both ends of the economical gap, feels like a halfhearted conclusion.
But even with its inferior ending, Parasite doesn’t lose the ability to efficiently fascinate and entertain its audience.
Parasite is now playing at Toronto’s TIFF Bell Lightbox.
Catch an exclusive Q&A with Bong Joon-ho (via Skype) after the 6:30pm screening at the TIFF Bell Lightbox on Monday, October 28.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie