When “Parasite” won the Screen Actors Guild Award for best cast last week, it suggested a surprise could be coming at the Oscars.
While “The Irishman” and “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood” have been viewed as the films most likely to be named Best Picture, they’re in second position now, thanks to “1917’s” win at the Golden Globes and “Parasite’s” Sunday night surprise.
Either is worthy of the biggie, but “Parasite” accomplishes so much it’d be a shame not to recognize it.
Set in two worlds of South Korea, the smart drama shows how class wars rage even when the dust seems to have settled. Written and directed by Boon Joon-ho, the film follows four members of a poor Korean family (led by a forceful Song Kang-ho) as they scheme their way into the lives of a rich family, hoping to enjoy a few of its spoils. One becomes an English tutor, another, an art therapist. Mom replaces the maid (after a plot to get rid of the long-standing job holder); dad becomes a driver.
Everything goes smoothly until the family decides to move into the house when the occupants are on a camping trip. Sure enough, a surprise guest appears and upsets the status quo.
From that point, Boon’s assault begins. He gives both families plenty to consider and isn’t afraid to nudge the wealthy or harm the poor. He lets each play into the other’s hand, then offers an ending that’s both telling and heartbreaking.
Like M. Night Shyamalan’s early work, “Parasite” isn’t easily guessable. It teases and tricks at each turn, then provides a strong a-ha moment that lingers.
When Song and Jang Hye-jin (as the parents) are working together to get rid of the maid, “Parasite” crackles with excitement. The two know just how to play the yuppie wife (Cho Yeo-jeong) and her husband (Lee Sun-kyun).
The film’s set – by Lee Ha-jun – looks like a simple, modern home. But it’s filled with nooks of adventure and crannies of intrigue. Boon uses every hiding place to his advantage, suggesting this could be the work of an architectural genius.
“Parasite” (you’ll understand the title when you see the film) has so much to offer, you’ll want to see it more than once. The actors are nicely matched; the action is over the top.
If this doesn’t get you to rethink how you treat others, nothing will. It hosts endless possibilities.
And, it just might be Oscar’s best of the year.
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