When Bong Joon-ho’s Palme d’Or-winning Parasite opens, the members of the Kim family are eking out their existence below the lowest stratum of Korean society. Figuratively and literally, they occupy a derelict “half-basement” underneath Seoul’s street level and fold pizza boxes for a living.
From here, the film tenderly follows them to the unreal luxury of that city’s moneyed and oft-satirized Gangnam district, where son Ki-woo (Choi Woo-shik) cons his way into tutoring guileless Da-hye (Ziso Jung), daughter of the ultrawealthy Parks.
Ki-woo and his ruthless sister, Ki-jung (Park So-dam) unspool an intricate, hilarious plan, and soon they and their parents — mother Chung-sook (Chang Hyae Jin) and sweetly bumbling father Ki-taek (Song Kang-ho) — replace the household help at the Parks’ estate, a glittering modern home designed by a famous architect that shockingly contrasts the Kims’ shabby lifestyle. The plot that unfolds is a joy to watch, even when the Kims act unspeakably to preserve the domestic illusion on which they’ve staked their future hopes.
Who are the parasites in this movie? The Kims, who abandon themselves to snatching what they can? The Parks, who take for granted the invisible labor of the toiling lives below them? Perhaps it’s the human race itself, feeding on its own and the world to the point of extinction.
Starts Nov. 15 at the Fine Arts Theatre