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Reviews For The Easily Distracted:

Title: Parasite

Describe This Movie In One Midnight Oil Quote:

The rich get richer, the poor get the picture
The bombs never hit you when you're down so low

Brief Plot Synopsis: Scenes from a class struggle in Pyeongchang-dong.

Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: 4.5 Samuel Morses out of 5.

Tagline: "Act like you own the place."

Better Tagline: "It's hard to find good help these days."

Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: The Kim family has fallen on hard times. Unemployed, their phones disconnected, and their neighbor having nefariously added a password to her WiFi account, something's got to change. Luckily for young Ki-woo (Choi Woo-shik), his friend Min has recommended him as English tutor to Da-hye, daughter of the wealthy Park family. Before long, Ki-woo has finagled jobs for his sister Ki-jung (Park So-dam), Mom, and Dad Ki-taek (Song Kang-ho). Things are finally looking up for Kims, which means it can't possibly last.

"Critical" Analysis:
 Bong Joon-ho has loaded the latter half of his acclaimed career with movies that couch their sober themes in genre trappings, though some are more subtle than others. The Host and Okja were cautionary tales about the environment and sustainability delivered via mutant river monsters and giant (mutant) pigs. While Snowpiercer used a post-apocalyptic train to tell a story of extreme social stratification.

Class struggle is also at the forefront of Parasite, though it's based in an all-too authentic present day. It's a movie that lays stark the divide between the wealthy and pretty much everybody else. Where every time we're lulled into thinking the relationship between the haves (the Parks) and have-nots (the Kims) is anything more than that of employer and employed, Bong douses us with harsh reality.

Bong plays much of the early proceedings for laughs, encouraging us to chuckle at the Parks' unknowingly hiring an entire family based solely on the recommendations so prized by the upper classes. But things take a sinister (and, given the director, not wholly unexpected) turn about halfway through, triggering a chain of increasingly dire events.

And any illusions we have about the Parks are dispelled soon enough, because for all their geniality, they never hesistate in their patrician expectation that the Kims (by whatever names) ignore whatever calamity or tragedy they may be suffering and come running when the masters call.

This is where Bong's genius lies: in the way he avoids demonizing the Parks, even as they callously describe the "smell" of the poor, and at the same time refuses to celebrate the Kims' success in conning their way out of poverty, however briefly.

Indeed, even squalor and disaster have an almost lyrical beauty when Bong films them. We see it in nothing more than a fleeting shot of Ki-taek's dirty feet as he sneaks out of sight of the Parks, or the camera lingering on Ki-jeong as she smokes a cigarette on an overflowing toilet while flood waters innundate their basement apartment.

But if Parasite is Bong Joon-ho's creation, it's Song Kang-ho who really brings it to life. Ki-taek's pain when he overhears the Parks talking about him is palpable, as is his bitterness when counseling his son to embrace life's chaotic nature while ensuring he always looks out for number one. It's a role that ought finally to bring the celebrated actor worldwide attention.

Parasite is a triumph by a director who still hasn't really made a misstep. In returning to a more grounded setting, a la Memories of Murder and Mother, Bong Joon-ho emphatically demonstrates he needn't resort to gimmickry to get his message across. 
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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar