Parasite ★★★★★

Parasite is a tremendously bleak masterpiece. Bong Joon-Ho deftly taps into how the dream of wealth can turn us into monsters; how in our belief that we can scheme and slave and achieve our way up the class ladder; we lose our humanity and reasonable expectations for a happy life. But more than this, the film is about how everyone that isn't at the very top is constantly reminded of that very fact. How poverty and working-class status cannot be escaped or disguised; how no matter what hollow sentiments are offered up, we will always be viewed as incomplete. In an effort to avoid spoilers, I'll merely say that Parasite is about a poor family coming up against a wealthy family; a picture of aspirational wealth. An industrious husband, attractive wife, privileged girl and supposedly savant boy. The film at first just revels in the naivete of the upper class; this lower-class family schemes and finesses their way up the ladder. But the bleakness comes when the hollowness of their triumph is revealed. The piece of the pie that they've carved out for themselves is revealed to be an afterthought for the rich; the reality sets in that on a very basic, fundamental level, aspirations of true wealth are merely that - aspirations.

There are other elements here as well that highlight these distinctions; though I really want to avoid spoilers. I loved how the worlds these two family's exist in are so wildly separate; one scene in particular highlights the literal descent from the ivory tower of the elites to this family's gutter apartment...literally underground in a way that allows them to watch as the outside world passes them by. A devastating rain that crushes the poor is a pleasant backdrop for the rich; a minor inconvenience only for it's intrusion on some weekend plans. Joon-Ho recognizes that the rich are simply not vulnerable in the same way that the poor are. That the relative bliss of wealth allows it's possessors to live in ignorance; an ignorance that they will never be punished for. The illusion of the class ladder breeds a self-perpetuating atmosphere of competition among the lower class while they dream of something better.

I go back to a quote all the time that I think highlights the problem with the ever-widening class divide: "the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires". Parasite, most similar to The Wolf of Wall Street (specifically the final scene), understands how the metaphorical grind we all subject ourselves to in hopes of one day being able to leave it all behind leaves us powerless. My viewing of Parasite this time around is absolutely limited; there's so much to admire and dissect in the craft itself, the impeccable balancing of so many tones and the shifty narrative craftsmanship. But man, I'm low-key obsessed with how ludicrous everything is right now; especially in what capitalism has become. All these tax-plans being thrown around, sky-rocketing debt and underemployment, a diminishing middle class and growing lower class; and the fucking tax cut for the rich just a few years ago! It's just absurd to me. Government and industry leaders are so ineffective at confronting the problem of wealth inequality that we're reduced to making memes and sarcastically declaring our intent to "eat the rich" in the comment sections of articles about billionaires paying less than us in taxes. Movies like Parasite offers a little solace, I guess. A little catharsis. In conclusion, though: all hail Bong Joon-Ho and run to see Parasite.

2019 Ranked

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