Tuesday, October 8, 2019

On Further Review: Parasite (2019) is good but not that good NYFF 2019

The cast of PARASITE at NYFF
This is not so much a review as a position paper to say that while I genuinely like Bong Joon Ho’s PARASITE, I will not go out on the ledge with the vast majority of you who think it’s the second coming of sliced bread. My lack of going out the widow is largely to I don’t think the film is as deep as it seems. Yes, the film makes some pointed points about class but they are way too obvious. (With the literal cross cut showing shit rolls down hill by having the someone in the rich house going to the bathroom as the sewage is blowing out of the poor families raised toilet.)

The film is the story of a poor family which talks it’s way into working for a rich family and then things happen, including a couple of out of left field things. It is on the face of it a critique of wealth and social inequality but for my money it has some serious problems that prevent it from being great.

The first problem for me is that the film is very much on the surface. Reading on and discussing the film I found lots of discussions about the obvious differences, the rich above the poor below,the way wealth changes us and the vapidness of wealth didn’t go much beyond that. Watching the film I saw all of that but I didn’t see much beyond the obvious statements. I came out of the screening scratching my head wondering what I was missing. There had to be something missing that people were reacting to…

…and then I had a long conversation with Hubert Vigilla where we hashed out a good number of points and I realized – nope I’m seeing the film as it is, I just am not digging it the way everyone else is.

Hey it happens. We all don’t like the same films.

At the same time I do want to say a few things.

First I am kind of disappointed in Bong Joon Ho with this film in that pretty much all of his points are obvious and out front. Sure films like SNOWPIERECER and OKJA wore their hearts on their sleeve, but outside of their preachy parts a good chunk of the film still had tidbits hidden beneath them. There was a complexity to things that allowed further thought and discussion, for example the society of the train in SNOWPIERCER is not just rich or poor. There were layers and complexity, that are not in PARASITE.

Indeed PARASITE makes it’s points with a sledgehammer.There is almost no subtly. As I said above shit goes down hill. Several things such as the smell of the poor, is repeatedly in increasing obvious digs as if to say “do you get it now?” Sure OKJA’s politics were on the sleeve but in PARASITE every damn point was bludgeoned into place.

Morally and thematically I have no idea what I am supposed to take away. What is the films views of the rich? Idle and disconnected? Stupid? Yes. But at the same time they aren’t bad even if they have a holier than thou attitude for the way they fire their help and carelessly rehire. Does that in and of itself mean they are bad? Does that mean we have a reason not to like them or side with them? No. It simply means that they are cut outs we are supposed to boo and hiss because we are told to. To be certain there are tales where, as in life, good people suffer, but usually it’s in the cause of something greater, I don’t know if there is something greater because there is almost nothing to their characters and the reasons behind it are too shallow.

Related the poor family are not particularly good people. Yes they are our heroes and the ones we root for but only because they are our focus. Change to point of view and we probably wouldn't like them much. Yes, I know that's the point but some things I've read seemed to forget that. We don’t know if living on the edge has warped them, but they are just con men and women. Sure we like them, but they are our focus. The destruction they leave in their wake is monstrous not just to the rich family but the people who work for them. Complicating matters is even when they get to be rich, they take over their employers house for a weekend, they kind of trash the place and treat it with as little respect as their home at the bottom of the hill. They are ultimately low class regardless of their economic status. And they don't care because it's not their place as witnessed by their always getting up set by the guy pissing outside their window

And this to me warps any idea of what Bong may be trying to say. This isn’t really about economy because no one changes, even for a moment. This isn’t a satire about class but a warning about how lower classes are going to be bad no matter where they are. There is no hope so don’t let them in. There maybe something to be said about being working middle class but based on the people we meet they are either screwed over (the driver) or hiding something terrible in the basement (the house keeper). To me, in this film everybody sucks regardless of where they are.

The whole guy hiding in the bomb shelter thing doesn’t really work for me. While it adds a nice dramatic edge and a tone of tension, I don’t think it works on logical level since why wasn’t the family told about the tunnels when they bought the house, and does the whole controlling the lights from the hidden cellar really make any sort of sense, never mind the real world but in the film? No it doesn’t and it only serves to show how out of control Boong’s narrative and plotting is.

I’m sorry this film is really messy. It is also incredibly superficial.

Yes it is a funny film, and at times a tense thriller, but it is decidedly not the great film many have thought it to be.


  1. I share your sentiment. I went into the theatre unaware that it's the supposed best film of the year, and walked out annoyed by what I had just watched. It's a movie that believes that it can base its' plot on social commentary rather than story; then, when it realizes that story is actually a necessary
    key element of a movie, it adds an unbelievable wtf? storyline of a man living in a hidden passage. You keyed in on the problem with the movie: it starts out with a cynical premise of a con-artist family taking advantage of an affluent family but then it goes nowhere so, to compensate, shit just has to happen; but, the "shit" is so farcical that I wouldn't have been surprised if aliens landed on the lawn somewhere at the end of the movie. That the movie is obviously simple to read is beyond question - from the deluge comment to the deluge moment, from their luck changing when the son defiles the rock, and the scene of the girl sitting on a spitting shitter has zero subtly. How is it possible to immerse into a movie where the characters are so stupid that they don't even notice that trash has been hastily shoved under their coffee table? There were several scenes that made me want to torch this movie but the one that took the cake was when the family was getting drunk in the living room; is there anything more annoying than watching people acting the silly drunk? By the end of the movie, I was so numb that I was thinking, "sure, Movie; you want me to buy that the father sent a 10 page letter through morse code over a light bulb, who am I to say otherwise?" By the end of the movie, I don't even know who the focus was supposed to be: it started out with the son, but then it became about the father; and it's anyone's guess what the motivation for final assault was other than the climax required a shock element (much like the ending of Joker) to solidify the WTF? aspects of the movie. Acting wise, they're all pretty indistinguishable other than the mother of the Rich family; she brought something to the role that had subtle undertones regardless of the blatant cutout role she was portraying. Overall, I grade this movie a D. For dogshit.

  2. There arrive these moments of genre when compiled and viewed in a context from 10,000 feet bring us to the awareness that we have arrived on a whole new generation altogether. "Game changer" is a watchword for such moments. And, you watch as people bumble over themselves in an attempt to classify and quantify and etymology(ze) a piece of work, such as Parasite, while determining that the work accomplishes so-much that it must be altogether new. However, I would mark 2019 as the year that the farce entered into mainstream media. Parasite is exploitative, ridiculous, foolish, a mockery of our petty ideals of a middle class system. Much like the farce that is The Joker, which starts out brilliantly only to whittle that brilliance into a boredom that requires a shocking event to climax the story, Parasite isolates some of us into these painted corners in a panic wonderment as to what people are getting out of this movie that we are not. Iow, could this be one of those "some of the times" when all of the people are fooled? I would claim that it only affects the cinematically illiterate, but across the board Parasite is the darling of critics much more woke to the artform than I am. So, I have become resolved. In this era on the cusp of social violence - where our society is growingly fed ridiculous accounts of news, and the partisans openly exploit and mock our political opinions, and foolishness is demonstrated ever so cleverly - it would make sense why a farce such as Parasite would sate the movie-goer's appetite. It's nowhere near being a great movie (the story is hammy, the acting is indistinguishable, the cinematography is ok); but it is a new genre for the time, it is subliminally in-sync with society, and it is shallow enough that cumbersome thought is not demanded. And now... let the wave of farcicals commence

  3. I feel you people. Couldn't believe that it was nominated for all those awards at the SAGs and Golden Globes. If this film manages to win best picture, ill be beyond mad. How did we go from classics like Gone With The Wind and All About Eve to this embarassing freak show called 'Parasite'