Parasite ★★★½

When is a con job immoral? Is it wrong if you're delivering what was requested by the mark, even if you don't have the credentials you claimed you have? Is it a grift if the mark is too dumb to know they're being played, and they're getting what they wanted? Is it wrong to take money from people who would otherwise piss it away on useless, dumb crap? People who aren't paying any real attention to anything, anyway? In a society where everyone seems to have a second name they stole from somewhere in flyover country of the United States, because no one wants to be who they are from where they're from, anyway?

This flick starts out as a fun short con movie. A family that's down on their luck gets an in with a nouveau riche family that's looking for house staff, and one by one, each member finds a job with them, sometimes by conning them into icking one of their prior servants. And it's a good time! Each member of the poor Kim family finds a gig with the rich folks, one by one, and sure, to a one they're so full of shit they squeak when they walk, but they give the rich Parks family what they want! Everyone wins! This is fun crime! Like an episode of Saved by The Bell! You know, that one where Screech waved the gun around and ejaculated at all passers-by! But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Anyway, the Park family eventually goes on vacation, and the Kim family starts thinking maybe they belong in the Park house. And then the old housekeeper comes back and we learn that the Kims weren't the first family to sink their hooks into the Parks. The two poor families fight for their right to be the Main Leech, and then the Parks come home early, and suddenly we're in an old John Hughes movie or a 70s sitcom, except instead of Marcia being caught with a boy in her room, there's a dead former employee in the basement and Greg is prepared to brutally murder all comers who won't call him Johnny Bravo.

This flick works on a lot of levels that I wasn't anticipating. Let's start with the fact I'm watching this in a dedicated home theater room on a 55 inch plasma TV I bought with money from my technology job. My SO and I ain't rich, but thanks to the fact that the cat's not going to college, we do okay... but I also try to recognize how Goddamned lucky we are. I'm lucky to have been born a white guy in the 1970s, while that's been a thing that still makes a difference, for good or ill. I'm lucky I had access to a college education, and to computers at a young enough age when they were just a fun thing to play with, and not something that could mean the course of my whole future if I didn't take to them. Don't get me wrong, I've worked hard, but so has every person who's ever worn a Denny's uniform. I like to believe I understand how much luck played into where I am now, unlike the Parks, who seemed to view their med-century modern palace as their due. I had a realtor take me through one of those places once, and I never felt like more of an impostor in my life.

Speaking of which, this movie also hits us between the eyes with impostor syndrome. Let's be real: the Kims were good at their jobs. They did what they were hired to do, and no one had any complaints about their performance... but still, the literal smell of being outside their station clings to them. And that's a thing that happens to the poor and the rich alike. I've worked and lucked and bullshit my way into a pretty decent gig with no small amount of responsibility, but I still have moments every damn day where my backbrain says, "They're gonna figure out that you're nothing more than a filthy, stinking script kiddie who spends too much time on Stack Overflow any minute now. You'd better type slowly and carefully, because if you get carpal tunnel syndrome, you won't be able to work the spatula at McDonald's, which is where you fucking belong."

This is a movie about class, and chance. Mr. Park doesn't seem to do very much, but what he does happens to have some value to the right people. The Kims work like animals, but still live in a basement that happens to flood out on a bad day. The former housekeeper did nothing wrong, but loses everything when the wrong person comes gunning for what she has. Mr. Park didn't do anything evil to the Kims, but he winds up screwed either way. No one is where they are because they deserve it; shit just kinda happened, and here everyone is.

While there's a lot going on under the hood, this isn't anything like a perfect movie. The minor theme that there's always someone lower than you who wants what your have is a little heavy handed, and Mr. Kim's fate seemed a bit on the nose. But for a flick that started as a light-hearted, almost sitcom con artist story had some real juice to it.

tl;dr: When a Korean film has a child character who is pretending to be both a native American and an artist when he's neither? Your themes aren't being driven by story.

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