Where do you start with Parasite? The experience of watching it is so many things at once: funny, tragic, bold, engaging, unsettling, upsetting, shocking. Somehow, director, Bong Joon Ho, has made the film's stomach-dropping shifts in tone and twists in plot feel seamless, and the result is one of the most memorable movie experiences I've had this year.
Parasite (2019, rated R), the first-ever South Korean film to win Best Picture at the Academy Awards, tells the story of a struggling Korean family. The Kim family lives in a roach-infested, semi-underground apartment, surviving on odd jobs and borrowed wi-fi. But when an old classmate of Ki-Woo, one of the Kim children, visits their luck changes. The classmate works as a tutor for the wealthy Park family and wants Ki-Woo to replace him while he studies abroad.
Ki-Woo seizes the opportunity, not only for himself but for his struggling family. As he is leaving his first tutoring lesson, Mrs. Park laments that her younger son has never been able to find a good art teacher. It so happens that Ki-Woo knows an art student that may be interested. She went to America to study, he explains, but is probably back in Korea by now. The next day Ki-Woo's sister, Ki-Jung, accompanies him, introducing herself as "Jessica," the art therapist. She diagnoses Mrs. Park's son with early signs of severe mental illness and prescribes several therapy sessions a week. Ki-Woo's parents soon follow. One by one, posing as distant acquaintances or professional contacts, each member of the Kim family claws their way into the household. In their efforts to secure full-time employment, they can be cruel—even ruthless—but it's difficult not to root for them anyway. The Kims do not play nice, but they are smart, resourceful, and determined. With the few resources they have, they succeed in beating their competition and pulling the household's strings—until one fateful night, things go very, very wrong.
Many movies explore the ugly realities of class divide and inequality, but few are as vivid and clever as Parasite. Watch it for free with a Hulu subscription (or one-month free trial), by placing a hold on one of the library's Rokus preloaded with Hulu, or placing a hold on a dvd or blu-ray.