Parasite ★★★★★

Joel Coen has said that directing comes down to two words: "tone management". Every time I finish watching a Bong Joon-ho film, the most prominent thought on my mind was that there isn't a single director who can balance tone as efficiently as he does. Parasite, at least on first viewing, is in my estimation the finest work of the director's career to date. It certainly feels like a culmination of his canon, a mature work from a master who has been building to his magnum opus and finally achieved it. Mixing a comedy of manners with a commentary on class divide, a hauntingly dark, gruesome thriller, and an emotional drama about a poor family simply trying to survive together and achieve some kind of higher position in life, Parasite occupies so many spaces, and yet there isn't a single moment where the tone tilts off-balance.

Every second of this movie feels so purposeful, so precise and keyed exactly to what Bong wants his movie to be, which is something quite unlike anything else that's come before it. This is a director who has always existed solely in his own space, where no one else can touch the specific note that he's playing in, which makes watching a Bong movie a singular experience. Parasite concerns two families, the poor Kim family, and the wealthy Park family. Bong's story starts off with the Kims slowly integrating themselves into the home of the Parks with employment opportunities under false pretenses. It's an interloper story that's loaded with humor, a Machiavellian scheme to line each member of the family up with a job one at a time, no matter the cost. It's supremely entertaining, something that's at the forefront of every Bong film, and certainly remains so here.

Parasite is never anything less than gripping, constantly keeping you guessing and subverting expectations of where this story is going to go. For that reason, it would be criminal for me to go into any further detail on the plot mechanics and spoil the fun for anyone yet to see this fascinatingly alive film. "Alive" is a word that permeates through so much of this picture, certainly so when thinking of the Park home itself, the place where the majority of the action takes place. A modern wonder of architecture loaded with open space and intricate staging, the house in this movie is a character unto itself, something that gives you as many surprises as the story itself.

Where Parasite eventually takes you will have you spinning, and yet while the fun of the story shifts from dark humor to tense thrills and emotions, Bong of course makes sure to guide it all through the lens of supremely well-constructed characters. The Kim family is one of great dimension and perseverance, a resilient and relatable group of characters who you want to root for even when you know that their actions are potentially harmful to others. From the opening scene you really feel like a part of this family, and yet as the movie goes on you are allowed more insight into their flaws, and more empathy into the Park family, who initially are simply seen as objects who exist for the Kims to manipulate for their own prosperity. Nothing is ever simple in a Bong Joon-ho movie, and the layers that he unravels in Parasite become more troubling and more fascinating the longer that you exist within the walls of this immaculate home. This is a movie that I know I'm going to be revisiting many times in the future, and surely one of the very best of 2019.

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