I finally got around to the 2019 Oscar winner for Best Picture.
I had been hesitant to watch it because I have a problem with subtitled content. It’s not a bias against foreign languages, but a physical distraction due to the trifocals I wear. In order to both see the action and read the closed captions, I have to keep bobbing my head up and down to look through different lenses. I can handle it in short doses (e.g. a scene in “Better Call Saul” where Nacho and Lalo speak Spanish), but in a full-length feature, I get a headache and a touch of motion sickness. Nonetheless, so many people had told me to watch “Parasite” that I eventually gave in — and I’m glad I did.
The plot is sympathetic from the start to a South Korean family of four that lives in squalor in a basement apartment. The parents and their grown son and daughter have all lost their jobs and struggle just to put food on the table, earning a meager wage by folding boxes for a nearby pizzeria. When the son is offered a chance to be a tutor for the daughter of a well-to-do couple, he jumps at it, and then successfully schemes to get the rest of his family jobs in the same household as chauffeur, housekeeper, and art therapist.
But what about the people who held those jobs before being pushed aside in a rather brutal fashion? Writer/director Bong Joon-ho doesn’t tell us much about them — until the family discovers a surprise in the basement. That’s when “Parasite” changes from a story of class differences between rich and poor to a tale of jealousy and subterfuge within the worker economy.
I admire the way Joon-ho weaved his plot in that direction, but I don’t love the way the upper-class family is portrayed as worthy of scorn. Sure, there’s a bit of snobbishness, but none of them ever acted in a condescending or dismissive way towards their new employees, and should not be considered the villains. In fact, while you can clearly delineate who the protagonists and antagonists are, I’m not sure there is an actual villain in “Parasite.”
The good news for me at the end of the movie was that I suffered no negative effects from reading all the subtitles while still paying attention to the acting and cinematography. While I would not have chosen “Parasite” as the Best Picture of 2019 (I gave that honor to “Once Upon A Time In Hollywood”), I did like it enough to rate it an 8 out of 10.