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Why Parasite should win the best picture Oscar | Film


Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite is already a success story. Winner of the Palme d’Or, the top prize at the Cannes film festival, as well as best foreign language film at the Golden Globes – and the richly deserved best cast in a motion picture at the Screen Actors Guild awards – it is now up for six Oscars including best picture. As well as earning a staggering number of garlands, the film is also a bona fide box-office smash, grossing $73m in its native South Korea and $30m in the United States. Even if Parasite went home empty-handed, it’d still have plenty to be proud of.

Parasite is Bong’s seventh film, a tragicomedy that centres on the Kims, a working-class family of four who, one by one, infiltrate and destabilise the home of the ultra-rich Parks from within its sleek glass walls. Kim Ki-woo (Choi Woo-sik) lands a job as an English tutor to a posh teenage girl named Park Da-hye (Jung Ziso). He then secures a gig for his enterprising sister Ki-jung (Park So-dam) as an “art therapist” to Da-hye’s pampered little brother Da-song (Jung Hyeon-jun). Their parents, Ki-taek (Song Kang-ho) and Chung-sook (Jang Hye-jin), also manage to become part of the Park family’s ecosystem, as Chung-sook replaces longstanding housekeeper Moon-gwang (Lee Jung-eun). It’s a giddy thrill to see the Kims swindle and squeeze the Parks for all they’re worth, until, halfway through the movie, Bong ups the stakes by introducing a new layer of drama.

Bong has made films in English (2013’s Snowpiercer and 2017’s Okja), but Parasite takes place in South Korea. There is no English dialogue. That this is Bong’s crossover hit, and that it has managed to transcend the best foreign film category (now known as “best international feature”) is its own miracle. Indeed, in 91 years of the Oscars, it is only the 12th non-English language film to be nominated for best picture. None of the previous contenders have won. If the Academy award Parasite the best picture Oscar, it will be a historic result.





Lee Sun-kyun as Park Dong-ik and Jo Yeo-jeong as Park Yeon-kyo in Parasite



‘They’re rich, but still nice’ … Lee Sun-kyun as Park Dong-ik and Jo Yeo-jeong as Park Yeon-kyo in Parasite. Photograph: Allstar/Curzon Artificial Eye

This fact alone might have made Parasite the underdog of the pack, had it not been for the film’s confrontational class politics. “They’re rich, but still nice,” says Ki-taek to his wife. “They’re nice because they’re rich,” she scoffs. “If I were rich, I’d be nice too.” Except the Parks aren’t nice. Patriarch Park Dong-ik (Lee Sun-kyun) wrinkles his nose at Ki-taek’s smell; he’s unable to disguise his contempt for the noticeable stench of poverty.

Still, the film is connecting with audiences. This, I think, is because Bong’s sharp sense of social satire plays second fiddle to his storytelling abilities. The film’s five-act structure is watertight, the pacing of its drama exquisitely judged and the tonal swerve at its midpoint handled with utter confidence. What begins as an upstairs-downstairs comedy of manners is transformed into a thriller, and concludes as a devastating tragedy. The protagonists are deeply flawed, the antagonists sympathetic. This is classical film-making at its very best and most rewarding.

Speaking to Vulture, Bong described the film’s pessimistic ending as “a surefire kill”, a downbeat doubling down. As a rule, the Academy’s tendency is towards the feelgood. Parasite is such an entertaining ride, voters might be swayed in the opposite direction. It might just be in with a chance.

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