Noah Thompson’s review published on Letterboxd:
You know what kind of plan that never fails? No plan. No plan at all. You know why? Because life cannot be planned.
(Disclaimer: You may have heard that this film got leaked online, full subtitles and all, not very long ago. Before you ask, yes, that's how I watched it. Even if my reception to it wasn't as glowing as most others, as you're about to hear, if this does play in a theater near me during its official theatrical release, I will be more than happy to pay to see it on the big screen.)
The best way I can describe Parasite, though it may seem a tad unfair, is it being a mirror version of last year's Burning. The correlation is strong, to me at least. Both are South Korean films that begin as dramas, become thrillers, and are all about class struggle. The reputation of director Bong Joon-ho precedes him, and I was more than looking forward to this since it not only won the Palme d'Or at this year's Cannes, but it's also now one of the highest rated films on Letterboxd and IMDb not just of this year, but in general. No better way to hype a film up than to see every review for the film using the term "masterpiece" at least once. To the claims of Parasite being a masterpiece, I have to respond with "Huh?"
Now, don't get me wrong, I enjoyed this my fair share, and there's enough really good stuff in here for Bong to be more than happy with his creation. That being said, I also can't help but feel that the explorations of class and family didn't have as much impact on me as was intended. Despite, akin to the first half of Burning, time being focused on the lead characters from both families, I could've benefited from having a bit more characterization. I understood everyone's lifestyles very clearly, but who the Kims and the Parks were as people wasn't as clear. (I'll also say, in slight contrast to this, that everyone's performances are very solid. It's more of a problem I have with the writing than how it's presented.) That being said, without diverging into spoilers, there is a "twist" that happens smack dab in the middle where the film switches genres. From then on out, I will admit that I was hooked. I think my main disconnect is, unlike with Burning, that second half didn't feel as natural or earned.
I do feel like if I had to recommend one or the other, Burning is the film that's more worth your time, and it is a shame it didn't get the kind of massively warm and wide attention Parasite is getting. However, if you did love this film, and it seems as though the vast majority of people did, good on you. The first half of the film is a 6/10, the second half is an 8/10, and I'll give the film as a whole a few more pointers towards the latter than the former, because the second half on its own is pretty damn good through and through. (A lot of what makes that second half work initially is not knowing that it's coming, so avoid spoilers for this film, as much as you can. In contrast, maybe next time I see this, since I now know how the whole story goes, perhaps I'll enjoy it all a little more. We'll see.) If there is anything I enjoyed entirely with Parasite, it's the stellar musical score from Jaeil Jung. At times poetic in melody, and at other times intimidating, it's the film at its best told through music. A code.
(All you college movie bros and hoes out there wanting to write about socialism in film for your thesis paper, look no further.)