Parasite ★★★★½

Parasite: or how to eat the rich and pay for it

Bong Joon-ho's Parasite begins with a window. A street fumigator sprays thick clouds of pesticide across the street and the Kims decide to leave the dingy window to their cramped hovel ajar for free pest control. Later, as Ki-woo searches for an elusive scalped wi-fi signal to check the family Whatsapp account for job prospects, he wanders the apartment, eventually cramped in a spot within arms reach of the family toilet. The Kims lives are ones distinctly lacking comfort.

So, when an old friend stops by and offers Ki-woo his position as an English tutor for the eldest child of a rich family, he takes the offer. Slowly, each of the Kims lands a job - through less than honest means - in the same household. And all is well...until they discover a hidden passage in the luxurious home.

Parasite is, in many ways, the movie I wished Jordan Peele's Us was. It's smart, incisive, and supremely suspenseful - at points Bong's latest feels like an honest-to-God horror picture, with heart-in-your-throat moments that work better than most movies, and certainly Peele's which had so many tantalizingly interesting threads, but couldn't seem to weave them together into anything resembling a cohesive tapestry. But, Parasite's best asset is its comedy. Bong knows how to concoct the most nail-biting of scenarios and he uses the situational comedy of the Kims' ludicrous predicament as a release valve to empty scenes of tension just before they've run their course. And there are some genuinely great slapstick moments as characters dart in and out of sight, ducking under tables, hiding behind beds, and creeping into cellars to avoid the eminently ignorant gaze of the rich family.

In Parasite's climactic moment, an eruptive fountain of repressed class drama explodes with giallo-like fervor. Knives are drawn, parties are crashed, and nothing is ever the same. It's a hell of a scene, both riotously funny in the same dark way that Tarantino's Once Upon a Time in Hollywood's climactic scene is and entirely thematic. There's a lot to unpack here and doing so would probably spoil the film's best surprises. But, suffice it to say that the ending ties the film's thematic threads together in some truly compelling ways.

Go see this movie. It's gorgeous, with slick wipes and fades that had me gleefully smiling like a drunken idiot. It's brimming with standout performances, especially the excellent Yeo-jeong Jo, who owns the stereotype of the Type-A suburban mom and never breaks the mold, but inhabits it so entertainingly that it works from tip to toe. And it's got a wonderfully Hermann-esque score reminiscent of those in Hitchcock's best work.

Parasite is currently my favorite new 2019 release and my second favorite of the year behind Apocalypse Now Final Cut.

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