Parasite ★★★½


Disclaimer: Snowpiercer improved significantly for me on second viewing, leaping from roughly the same "pretty good" rating to a near-miss for my top 10 list. (It's still #11.) Don't anticipate that happening with Parasite, though, mostly because Bong grounds this tale of class warfare more firmly in the real world, even as the tone remains antic verging on absurdist. It makes a difference: Plausibility seems irrelevant in the face of aggressively tiered train compartments and a way-over-the-top Tilda Swinton, whereas here my enjoyment of act one's elaborate machinations (which amount to Bong's version of a heist movie) was slightly undermined by my wondering how a family this diabolically clever and resourceful ever wound up living as they were in the first place. Lotta latent abilities emerging all of a sudden, I guess. Still a lot of fun, and act two's big twist (this film has the cleanest Syd Field structure in recent memory) made me think that Bong was saying something truly bold and incisive about senseless infighting among the bottom 20%. What happens at the climax doesn't really fit that interpretation, though, and by the final scene it's quite clear that we're looking at a familiar binary lament that's unequivocally allied with the have-nots. Nothing wrong with that per se, but it worked better for me in Snowpiercer's more extravagantly ludicrous context; Parasite is a pretty straightforward crowdpleaser (albeit tempered with occasional ugliness), and while I laughed in all the right spots, I never really felt shaken or stirred. Again, though, my initial response to Snowpiercer was similarly muted, so it's possible that I'll eventually join the ecstatic consensus. Step one will be accepting that the impromptu birthday party doesn't play out in the very specific way that I'd expected/desired. Will elaborate when I inevitably watch it again.