Parasite ★★★★

Bong Joon-ho's Parasite is a Discreet Charm of Bourgeoisie with a thriller spin. At its heart it's about how the poor cannibalize each other in hopes of living a lifestyle of the rich instead of demanding any change from the disparity between rich and poor. And though there are lots of twists, it's the buildup first-to-middle act, pre-twists, that is probably Bong's finest work as a filmmaker. It is precise, machine-like, and funny. And most biting in this satire is the respect that the rich receive simply for being rich, seemingly possessing no identifiable human qualities other than their impressive house by a famous architect.

For where the film ends up going, and I won't write that up here as it's best to go in extremely cold, I think Bong stays on the surface a little too much. It works best as a parable and shows a few blemishes in biting satire. Bong focuses on the separate society walls that make the rich so gullible to this family of grifters (employment recommendations are the highest currency because just getting to their doorstep is perceived as having walked a pre-vetted and merited path to get there) but also, Bong hinges most of the third act on a repeated comment of how the rich family views their staff as not fitting in: their smell. ("It's the smell of people who ride the subway.") And while this is an astute and stinging observation of class not just being money but a perceived elevation as more human, at first blush, it feels like Bong lets the rich family get away with too much. This works when they're presented to us through the parasitic poor family, because they're craftily taking advantage and also would like to live in such a house themselves, but when the closing carnage spins from this observation, it does feel like the most minor complaint of the rich when it comes to inequality. More telling is that prior to this spin, the rich patriarch of the family says "consider this your job" and reminds the double pay for a day, which was originally off, and how when someone rich pays for your presence they feel entitled to use it for whatever purpose imaginable that day.

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