20+ Parasite Reviews – A Curious Class Exercise In Social Irony and Cruelty

Saw Parasite ⭐️⭐️⭐️ and, based on the amount of critic love, and the fact that it won the prestigious Palm d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, I was expecting it to be jaw-dropping amazing — but for me it was not.

Sure, it’s creative, it might even be a little genius in that it makes the viewer think both during and after the film, but is it among the greatest films ever made?

Sorry, no.

It is cynical, mostly unfunny — except for a small few scenes like the sewer overflow scene (loved that!) — sometimes meanders and was filled with unlikable characters and subtext that were supposed to make the viewer think it was amazingly clever, but obviously tried too hard.

“Parasite” has picked up the kind of praise from critics and audiences that make it one of the relatively rare foreign-language films that looks to have real potential across multiple categories in the Academy Awards. Nominations in the best film and best director categories are genuine prospects.

‘Parasite’ to Pass $10 Million North American Box Office This Weekend – Variety

Yes, I’m definitely in the minority on this film. Way in the minority as you’ll see from numerous praiseworthy reviews below. Some are giving this perfect scores. It has a 99% Fresh score on Rotten Tomatoes. I’m just asking: is this movie as good as Gone With The Wind? (90% on Rotten Tomatoes)

Seriously?

It’s a bummer when I’m on the opposite side of enjoying something that many others love. I also think critics too often fawn too much over movies simply because they are artsy, experimental and/or unusual, not because cinematically they tell fresh, engaging stories.

At least this time I liked the movie, just didn’t love it. Ad Astra ⭐️ and
Hustlers ⭐️½  I pretty much hated both of those. And in Hustlers case, I was on the opposite side of box office sales (it performed pretty well).

Don’t get me wrong, I liked Parasite. It is creative and clearly there was talent involved in the film. I just needed some light to go with the darkness. Films like this one and Joker⭐️⭐️⭐️½  that just dwell on the dark with no light. I mean what were the redeeming qualities of these people at the end? What were the character arc from either the scammers or the scammed? There were none. It was just rich vs. poor and both were unlikable. I couldn’t root for either social class.

And perhaps that’s the story Bong Joon-Ho wanted to tell: for there to be neither side to root for. Just a searing social commentary on behavior having little to do with economics.

I don’t mind sad films that are supposed to be sad. I’m OK crying at films when they are designed to make me cry. I just want comedies — even black comedies — to make me laugh, rather than feel like it was all just cruel and unusual punishment. What’s funny about class warfare where both classes are unlikable?

When a movie is presented to make me feel one way but makes me feel another, I am not a huge fan of this deception. Being off balance as the viewer is important, yes, because predictable stories are no fun, but if you go to a comedy you want to laugh. The sewer scene aside, I couldn’t smile much here. The guy sitting next to me sort of made this grunting chuckle sound throughout the film. The rest of the theater attendees were dead silent.

Nobody stood up and applauded when it was over. Shouldn’t at least somebody in the audience have done that? It was like watching a movie at the cemetery.

(The audience did applaud at the end of Doctor Sleep ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️)

Here is a comment I almost left on another reviewer’s blog comments and pulled back, in response to debating if we need likable characters in a movie:

We root against characters we dislike and root for characters we like. That’s an innate viewer trait, yes? It’s the reason we want ROCKY to beat Apollo Creed, Clubber Lang and Ivan Drago. It’s why Hans Gruber’s devious plot in DIEHARD must be foiled by John Maclane. We want Marty Mcfly and Doc to foil Biff Tannen’s bullying tactics in BACK TO THE FUTURE.

But in PARASITE I can’t root for either side. I can only root that they all fail at what they are doing … for the entire movie.

None of the characters have any arcs, which is what I look for in movies that I LOVE. What about the social circumstance changed any of these characters? Nothing. So, at the end it is just the director saying, “no redemption for either economic class.” Is that really true or even realistic in life?

Yes it’s just the movies and we should suspend our belief at times. It doesn’t have to be real to be enjoyed. I get all that and to some degree I agree, but this film is intentionally trying to skewer social economic disparity. It does it without having any opinion of its own. It just picks a cynical angle and exploits it. That is the point, it seems.

There are some wonderful rich people (Fred Rogers was one of them, in his undying work educating children) and wonderful human beings that are poor (Harriet Tubman was a slave who freed herself and then spent her life freeing other slaves — she was as poor as you can be). So, throughout history we have characters on both sides of the economic extreme who are good people. I would have loved this movie if just one of the characters had some positive or at least illuminating arc.

Instead, the director just makes a film expressing cruelty and economic despair with no solution or even perceived solution, just commentary that we as viewers are supposed to say, “Yes, that’s just the way it is.” No, it’s not. So that’s what took me away from loving this movie.

Comment I decided not to leave on another movie reviewer’s blog

Again, I’m not saying I didn’t like Parasite. I did, gave it three stars which means I recommend to others to see it. That in and of itself is a compliment. I think it did a number of things creatively, but just wish there had been one character having a redeeming arc of some sort. Some glimmer of hope.

We have enough depressed, disturbed people in society right now. We need films that show some glimmer of hope for people at the end, not just bleak, barren hopelessness. I’m not saying every movie needs a happy ending, but movies that don’t offer any conclusion outside presenting “here’s a problem with these two disparate economic classes — they both are flawed.” What is so enlightening or awe-inspiring about that?

If you’re on the fence, I do recommend seeing Parasite and judging for yourself.

Other Blogger Reviews

Now that you know my opinion and why, let’s see what others think.

Recommended

  • Trang / Bookidote: “This movie should be studied in school because the storytelling is compelling and a masterwork. You will, laugh, shiver, stress with the characters.”
  • Jarred Jzyk: “I think it’s a masterpiece and definitely one of my favorite movies of 2019 so far. It’s virtually flawless in almost every way from start to finish. From the direction to the characters to the story and everything from a technical aspect.”
  • Fullerton Observer: “…is well over two hours long and not all audiences will enjoy this unusual film spoken in Korean with English subtitles. Also, its startling tonal shifts can be off-putting. But adventuresome audiences may find this movie worth their time and worthy of discussion.”
  • David Ferguson: “What begins as a devastating social satire morphs into a wild and crazy time of violence … without losing its general theme. A comedy of familial con artists bursts into a violent class thriller – the price to pay for unearned comfort. The film is not just unpredictable, it smacks us with a jarring twist.”
  • Screen Zealots: “…is one of the most intriguing, intelligent, and disturbing films of the year. It’s also one of the best.”
  • Fresh Film Takes: “To infect my mind with creative inspiration I have been ruminating over ever since my initial viewing, the film finds its hook and raises the temperature to boiling heights.”
  • The Movie Files: “Everything you may have heard is true, both about the quality of the film (it’s a straight-up masterpiece)”
  • Jordan Woodson’s Reviews: “It is a masterfully crafted movie with an impacting message that brings Bong Joon Ho to elite-filmmaking status.”
  • eggylettuce: “…a fantastic movie and thoroughly engaging from start to finish. It rides a fine line between upbeat comedy and gritty thriller and it does so effortlessly, spanning multiple genres with ease while covering some very serious topical themes whilst never hitting you over the head with anything.”
  • A. Leon: “Extremely recommended with a warning. This is not light fare. You won’t be able to separate the plot from the social commentary, which is there without ever becoming a hurdle or a nuisance.”
  • Saigon Geeks: “I guess this is what they call a Dark Comedy. But the real reason I enjoyed it was because it was a breath of fresh air, I could follow the plot but I had no idea where the story was going. Usually I don’t like that kind of thing, but maybe because I stepped into the cinema with zero expectations, anything is better than zero…?”
  • Essential Movies: “…my expectations were so high that I was worried I’ll get disappointed in the end but that’s not what happened and after watching it I can say that Parasite is easily one of the best movies I’ve ever seen (I’m 20 I haven’t seen that many though).”
  • Chicago Indie Critics: “I’ve seen Parasite twice and I cannot wait to see it again.  Led by Bong Joon-Ho’s masterful direction, stellar performances, and technical greatness, Parasite is one of the very best movies of 2019 and a movie unlike any you have seen before.”
  • Jeremy Koh: “It is a movie that will inevitably get under your skin and take up space in your head long after the credits have rolled.”
  • Hector Valverde: “It’s flooring not just how much, but how synergistically and open to interpretation Joon-ho crafts his film, particularly in his impressive ongoing visual motif contrasting the power disparity between high and low height levels.”
  • Matt Stephen: “…is unmistakably the work of a master of the craft addressing a borderless plight.”
  • Dylan McDermot: ” is easily one of the best films I’ve seen in the past few years. It is an incredibly creative story of class and diversity told in an engaging narrative that hooked me from start to finish. If foreign films aren’t your thing or you don’t like subtitles, I highly recommend you stretch yourself and try something new.”
  • simplyjorge: “…a movie that must be watched without having very much knowledge of it in the first place in order to see all the twists and turns unfold in the movie. I would have to give this movie a rating of 5/5 with zero issues in my opinion.”
  • Rachel’s Reviews: “The director trusts the viewers and the film he has crafted enough to not feel the need to hold your hand through every metaphor of the story. It’s definitely a movie that has stayed with me and one I hope to be able to watch again soon.”
  • Heather’s Hot Takes: “…unfolds in such a surprising and clever way.It dares to venture into the most brutal and darkest of places, making it unlike anything I have experienced before. It’s brilliant.”

Not Recommended (or on the fence)

Pat H. left his very first review and didn’t like Parasite
  • R.L Terry: “I had incredibly high expectations for this film based upon everything I was hearing and reading, but it just didn’t do it for me. After the brilliant first half of excellently crafted suspense, foreshadowing, and plot setup, the second half loses the intrigue and just takes one convoluted turn after another for the sake of complicating the plot in an effort to make it say more than it actually does.”
  • greatmartin: “I left the theatre glad I didn’t walk out but at the same time I really can’t see recommending it while, on the other hand, Allen thought it was a classic whodunit.”

NOTE: I liked and followed most, if not all, of the blogger’s linked above. I don’t care who disagrees with me (or I disagree with) and enjoy reading other moviegoers’s opinions, including dissenting ones, on films. Echo chambers are to be avoided.

14 thoughts on “20+ Parasite Reviews – A Curious Class Exercise In Social Irony and Cruelty

  1. thanks for the shoutout. I always value alternative points of view. In this case I felt the characters were complex characters with both likable and unlikable traits. There are no heroes or villains, which I appreciated. Everyone is a bit a pawn to their social status that’s why it is interesting that with the trappings of wealth the family couldn’t escape that low class smell. There’s definitely an anti-capitalist bent to it but I thought it was done with nuance and subtlety but that’s just me. Thanks

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t mean to challenge your opinion, but what were any likable traits about any of these characters? Can you name even one character arc that would suggest there was any redemption, care or concern (other than not getting caught) with their actions? As for the rich family? The child spy (cardboard), the cliche mother who does whatever the dominant father wants. I didn’t see any complexities on any of these characters? What did you see that I didn’t? Again, not challenging you personally, just point out some character arcs that existed that I missed. Just seemed like bad people doing bad to other bad people, regardless of their wealth or poverty.

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      1. I felt like they all had a pluckiness to them that made me root for them despite the fact they were swindling people. Until things get out of control their con was relatively harmless and they certainly pay a cost for it by the end. There’s little options for them and they work together as a family which I thought was endearing.
        The rich family had a sweetness to them that I could relate to. They are living their lives and trying to be good parents. The problem is they are oblivious to the concerns of the part of their community they don’t pay attention too. I didn’t see the rich mother as being dominated. She’s a demur person but runs the household without much supervision or direction from her husband. He is a businessman but I think he cared for his wife and family in his own way. They are obviously in love with each other.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. I don’t know if I agree that complex characters necessarily need arcs. We are just seeing a small moment in their lives. I have no doubt the Rich Mom changes with the death of her husband and the trauma she experienced. When I say complex I mean they experienced many emotions and sides to them. That’s enough for me. I definitely think the poor people had a glimpse of the good life and then realized it was an illusion. That was moving for me. That’s what makes the movie good. It has layers. It’s a comedy, thriller, and social commentary without being heavy handed in any of them. I liked all the characters but I also hated them. Shrug

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  2. Thank you, I can see a little better where you are coming from. Still I don’t see any character arcs in any of the people mentioned: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Character_arc

    The rich mother is demur, let’s focus on her. Where did her character change from any of the events or her actions around her? It didn’t. She behaved the same way throughout the entire movie. What would have been better is if she went against the scam artists and disrupted their plan. Perhaps she decided to rehire the housekeeper after firing her out of guilt for her long employment tenure (logical and would have led to an interesting conflict for the film) Maybe she discovered the plan hatched against her family by continuing to have conversations with the ex-employee (a true protective, loving mother most certainly wouldn’t so easily dismiss a long time housekeeper and never speak to her again)? See, that would have provided a character arc that, in my opinion, would have improved the film and increased the complexity of at least one character.

    Instead the mother is just unwittingly going along with the scam. Being that demur person you described. We never see her do anything except dismiss long time servants to make way for scam artists. She just goes with the flow without really caring about those she knew for somebody she didn’t know (illogical, really). This strained credibility for me at this stage of the movie.

    The hard working father? Maybe he could have done something to expose the scamsters? Nope, he just goes to work and comes home and accepts everything happening. Why didn’t he complain about firing the long time housekeeper? He doesn’t question anything. So, his character is also one dimensional with no character arc.

    Pluckiness? I like that description and will run with it. The same, however, can be said for the Kim family. None of them change and thus no character arcs.

    Complex characters have character arcs that we see happening throughout the course of the film. But in PARASITE? There are none that I can point out. Are there any? Like I said in my last comment, it’s possible I missed a character arc. I was looking for at least one by the end of the film … and came up empty.

    Have only seen the film once, maybe I have to watch it again to find a character arc I missed the first go-round?

    Take GROUNDHOG DAY with Bill Murray’s character. We see his character forced to go through changes in order to break the time loop. That is a very distinct and powerful character arc and the film would not be the same without this arc.

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    1. Very interesting take.

      I, like most other reviewers, see hundreds of movies a year. There are many I remember at the end of the year or several years later, but most are immediately forgettable. PARASITE is one of those rare few that I will never forget, no matter how much time passes.

      That’s one of the major reasons I liked it so much, I’m addition too the near-perfect direction and the social commentary (presented in an unexpected and sophisticated way).

      I still have a very vivid physical and emotional reaction when I think of several scenes (the talk in the car, the ringing of the doorbell, the dark entryway in the kitchen, the casual cigarette smoking next to a toilet overflowing with sewage). I love when a movie hits me that way.

      And as Rachel said, always fun to hear and debate different viewpoints!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you for stopping by and commenting. Since August 12, 2019 I’ve watched, rated and reviewed 257 movies including every movie released in the theater, so guilty as charged in that brotherhood of wanting to see something memorable 😉

        I just saw a movie from 1989 last night that had the impact you described: https://letterboxd.com/tjsnk/film/tetsuo-the-iron-man/ — I guess for me, and I really don’t disagree with anything you wrote, the most memorable movies for me aren’t ones with only clever direction, framing and presenting some “message”, they actually tell great stories. They let the stories and characters deliver the message.

        I didn’t like all of Hitchcock’s movies, but PSYCHO was unforgettable I need more than brilliant filmmaking to love a film, I guess. I need either a fresh story (difficult) or a famila story told in a fresh way (PARASITE does do that) with compelling characters (does NOT do that for me).

        Liked by 1 person

      2. And to me, PARASITE tells a great story and has great characters. I don’t require a message to enjoy a movie, ever. But I do tend to respond to politically-charged themes, for the most part. The big exception this year was JOKER. I was so disgusted by it and disliked it so much that I didn’t even bother writing a review.

        What are your favorite movies you’ve seen so far this year?

        Liked by 1 person

      3. My main issues with PARASITE that kept me from loving it vs. simply liking it are that it didn’t provide a meaningful resolution (the ending as shown was not what I hoped for). he showed me a movie with a problem, cynically, with characters who didn’t go through any significant changes. As mentioned above, I didn’t like any of the characters and didn’t see any meaningful progression for them other than bad people doing bad things to bad people and having bad things happen as a result. How did it change anything? No, it’s just saying, “this is what it is — accept it.” While that is one way to leave the film with no suggested resolution, I would have loved if the film suggested some solution, or presented a character which had a more hopeful outlook. JOKER did the same thing which is why I didn’t love that either. It’s just baiting the people who wallow in self-pity with the “hey, you’re not alone, it sucks out here” … but there is nothing therapeutic about it. Do I like that the movie made me think? Absolutely! But to make me LOVE a film, there needs to be hope from someone, somewhere, not just total black as space darkness.

        I realize this is a totally personal observation, and don’t expect (many) others to agree with me. The great thing about art is the subjective nature to it. Others may not care to have any hope, they may just enjoy darkness by itself. Good for them. I look around society and am saddened that we have so many people depressed. Movies like PARASITE and JOKER with their cynicism feed on this depression.

        Moving on …

        Of the 46 new movies I’ve seen in 2019 at the theaters since August 12, 2019, here is how I ranked them:

        https://letterboxd.com/tjsnk/list/regal-unlimited-2019/by/your-rating/

        Best movies for me so far in 2019 are DOCTOR SLEEP (my favorite), PEANUT BUTTER FALCON and JUDY (only for Zellweger’s acting and singing, she deserves an Oscar for that, the movie I have issued with). I also enjoyed the adaptation of Garth Stein’s THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN. More recently, I enjoyed HARRIET. Have been no five-star films that I’ve seen yet, but am looking forward to Tom Hanks in A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD, FORD VS. FERRARI, UNCUT GEMS and a few others.

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      4. lol no, I’m in my 50s, a grandfather, married 30 years next month, and much too weathered on the internet to be that sensitive, especially to people who don’t know me and I don’t know 😉

        I love talking about creative art: books, films, TV and debating and discussing, but am not a fan of personal attacks. Although just out of spite I’ll play with trolls now and again, because they are so easy to rile up lol

        (not saying you are anything but respectful, Louisa, just talking in general about the web — and glad to have you here for a moment, however long it will be)

        Your opinion is yours and mine is mine, but I find it fascinating — as it seems you do as well — to be able to respectfully debate good films. I think PARASITE is a good film and thus worthy of debate.

        Thank you again for stopping by! Pull up a chair, drop me good interesting links. I’m all about it!

        Like

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