Movie Review: 'Parasite' Snowpiercer director Bong Joon-ho has made a South Korean social satire that's also a genre-bending Palme d'Or-winning thriller of class struggle.


Movie Reviews

Movie Review: 'Parasite'

Movie Review: 'Parasite'

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Snowpiercer director Bong Joon-ho has made a South Korean social satire that's also a genre-bending Palme d'Or-winning thriller of class struggle.


No foreign-language film has ever opened at the numbers of a new satirical comedy that opened this past weekend. A Korean film called "Parasite" opened to record audiences in New York and LA and expands to other cities Friday. Critic Bob Mondello says no matter what audiences expect, they're likely to be surprised.

BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: A tale of two families, the Parks, who live in a designer house atop a hill...


MONDELLO: ...And the Kims, who live in a grungy basement apartment across town.


MONDELLO: Literally high and low, both physically and in social status, they wouldn't normally meet. But then a friend drops by the Kims' basement with a gift, a big stone that his grandfather claims will bring the family material wealth. This is so metaphorical, says 20-something Kim Ki-woo.


CHOI WOO-SHIK: (As Kim Ki-woo, speaking Korean).

MONDELLO: His mom is skeptical.


JANG HYE-JIN: (As Kim Chung-sook, speaking Korean).

MONDELLO: Food would have been better, she says. Still, the friend also brings word that the wealthy Park family needs an English tutor for their daughter, and he sets up Ki-woo with an audition for the job.


MONDELLO: Mrs. Park tells him she always sits in on the first lesson.


CHO YEO-JEONG: (As Park Yeon-kyo) If it's OK with you.

MONDELLO: Ki-woo gets the tutoring job, then starts building on what is a really good deal. The Parks pay well, so he introduces his sister - he says she's a friend of a classmate - as an art therapist for their son. Beats folding pizza boxes to earn money or leaving the window open in the Kim apartment when the city fumigates the alley it's on to get free exterminating.


MONDELLO: Money is an iron, says someone. It smooths out the wrinkles - another metaphor, and a clue that the Kim family's scam, which just seems funny at first, is more than it appears. Writer-director Bong Joon-ho never goes for just funny. His sci-fi epic "Snowpiercer," for instance, put the last survivors of a climate disaster on a train and set them to killing each other in a class war. And as the comedy starts curdling in "Parasite," class struggle is again on his mind.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As character) I'm deadly serious.

MONDELLO: The haves here aren't hateful. They're just insensitive. Mr. Park keeps scrunching up his nose and talking about the stench of poverty. And the have-nots aren't vicious, so much as hapless for a while. And then - well, shouldn't spoil things. Let's just say that by "Parasite's" conclusion, what started out as a comedy of manners has become a furious snarl of rage and his most arresting social satire yet.

I'm Bob Mondello.


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