Now Playing at the Savoy Theater
Americans don’t care for subtitled movies.
So when there’s a foreign film playing on hundreds of screens in the US, it is generally because the movie is terrific and universally relatable.
Well, not this time. “Parasite” is disappointingly average. Don’t let the other critics con you into seeing it. It’s overlong and nothing special.
“Parasite” begins amusingly enough. We meet the Kims. They’re a poor family living in a South Korean slum. Their only amusements are stolen wi-fi and drunks urinating in full view of their front window.
But the Kim family loves each other and they will always work together to stay afloat.
When the teenage son Ki-Woo gets a sweet job tutoring English for a pretty rich girl named Da-Hye Park, the Kims come up with the perfect con. Ki-Woo loves going to Parks’ beautiful mansion and he finds ingenious ways to get the other house employees fired and replaced by his mom, dad, and sister.
If the movie had ended halfway through – with the triumphant Kim family getting drunk together in the Parks’ spacious living room – “Parasite” would have been fine. The first half is breezy and fun.
But then writer/director Bong Joon Ho throws us some bad curve balls. The fun evaporates and the movie gets weird, ridiculous, and melodramatic.
The second half of “Parasite” is a preachy horror movie about class differences.
Bong Joon Ho makes ham-fisted, obvious observations about class conflict. The lower-class people in “Parasite” literally live underground. That would almost be clever symbolism if not for the fact that Jordan Peele did the exact same thing in his superior class-conflict horror movie “Us.”
To be fair, I don’t live in Korea. Perhaps Soeul is a powder-keg of class resentment and a war between the rich and the poor is imminent.
All I know is this movie has nothing relevant to say about the United States. Class conflict is not a problem here.
Don’t worry: I’m not saying that wealth and income inequality isn’t a huge issue. I think it’s sad how our society sells working class people on decadent luxuries like houses, children, and dinner every night. Then it provides subpar jobs in retail, food service, and home health that clearly don’t pay enough to afford those luxuries. Then it lends out easy money to give people a taste of luxury and leaves them indebted for life.
I’m certainly not saying that there isn’t economic exploitation of the lower classes. It is clear, however, that those being exploited are not irrupting in class-based rage and starting a violent revolution. Americans are too busy busting their butt at the mall for $9.50 an hour to read Das Kapital or fashion explosives from the Anarchist Cookbook.
The good news is that we are incredibly far away from a class war in the United States. The better news is that you don’t have to sit through a foreign movie with subtitles because “Parasite” is overrated.