Parasite ★★★★★

Arriving on a wave of hype since its Palme d’Or win in May, Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite is every bit as mesmerizing as the buzz surrounding it suggests. With a razor-sharp script and excellent contributions from all players involved on both sides of the camera, it sunk its hooks into me within the opening minutes and never let go. Bong aims for many thematic and aesthetic targets over the course of the film, and he hits virtually every one with stunning precision. As a satire on social climbing and the aloofness of the upper class, it’s dead-on and has parallels to the American Dream that American viewers are unlikely to miss; as a dark comedy, it’s often laugh-aloud hilarious in its audacity; as a thriller, it has brilliantly-executed moments of tension and surprises that genuinely caught me off-guard; and as a drama about family dynamics, it has tender moments that stand out all the more because of how they’re juxtaposed with so much cynicism elsewhere in the film. Handling so many different tones is an immensely difficult balancing act, yet Bong handles all of it so skillfully that he makes it feel effortless. Though I often had the sense that something horrible was just seconds away from happening, the film plays its twists and turns close to the vest and I found myself surprised and startled by numerous developments. The acting is superb across the board, particularly from Song Kang-ho as the deceptive family’s patriarch and Cho Yeo-jeong as the naïve mother of the wealthy family. Song is convincing as an embattled opportunist who seems like he’s just one push away from cracking, and Cho’s obliviousness to the Kim family’s grifting and the ways in which her privilege have sealed her off from the real world often make for effective humor. Taken as a whole, Parasite covers so much ground and leaves viewers with so much to unpack that it’s tough not to get swept up in it as it runs and continue to ponder its messages and implications after it ends. It’s an experience unlike any other I’ve had at a movie this year.

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