Film Review: Parasite (2019)


[Review not spoiler-free.] Parasite, winner of this year’s Best Motion Picture Academy Award, was directed by Bong Joon Ho.

The film focuses on two families, the impoverished and resourceful Kim family (played by Kang-ho Song, Hye-jin Jang, Woo-sik Choi, and So-dam Park), and the Park family (played by Sun-kyun Lee, Yeo-jeong Jo, Ji-so Jung and Hyun-jun Jung) who are affluent and a little naïve. Through the poorer family’s manipulation, the Kims trick the wealthy couple to employ the Kims.

The story has themes of escape, captivity, naivete and unpredictability. Things end up much more tragic than anyone in the story (or the audience) could expect.

Escape comes into play throughout the film. The Kims want to escape a life with fragile Wi-Fi access and a drunk who comes to their half-basement apartment window to relieve himself. The Parks want to be safe and free from the (they believe) dangerous servants that the Kims replace.

The freedom longed for through the escape transitions into captivity with the old housekeeper (Jeong-eun Lee) hiding her husband (Myeong-hoon Park) who is trapped by loan sharks in a shadow existence in the Park’s house. A crisis caused by a torrential rainstorm show that the Kims are also captive by their environment. Their captivity becomes literal as the Kims are stuck hiding under a table hiding from the Park parents.

Naivete is the best description of Mrs. Park who trusts the Kims without proper supervision of the tutors. Also, they don’t have familiarity with life in the poorer parts of Seoul. The Parks talk about a smell which acts in the story as a surrogate for the essence of poverty of the people living like the Kims. The affluent can’t recognize the smell because it is from an alien world.

In a low point of the plot, the Kim’s father suggests that one shouldn’t make plans because life is so unpredictable. The film has very little violence until it transitions into a horrific conflict. I wasn’t prepared for so much blood because I was unaware of the building peril. During the transition, there is a symbolic scene where pools of blood and water are flowing together after one of the violent attacks.

After reaching a high point with a celebratory party, the film falls deeper and deeper into its very grim outcome. Both the Kim and Park families are devastated and crushed-both parasite and host suffer.

The emotions through the film are fluid as the characters go through a series of triumphs and catastrophes. The storytelling didn’t force specific emotions on me with a Disneyesque conclusion. The score of such films can be a lever to aid the “Feel this” command. Parasite’s score is more subdued. When it’s noticed, the music is in the service of the story and is not a essential part of the producer’s emotional control panel.

Parasite wasn’t what I expected and turned out to be something much better.

Film Review: Spies in Disguise (2019)

2020-02-10_Spies-in-DisguiseSpies In Disguise is fanciful and lighthearted. It isn’t a great movie, but it’s good enough to enjoy for a first viewing.

Lance Sterling (voiced by Will Smith) and Walter Beckett (voiced by Tom Holland) are unlikely partners. The former is a super spy that work alone who is paired with an idealistic inventor that no one appreciates.

Walter’s inventions are admittedly silly, but they add to the charm of the movie. The film is about fun, transformation, caricatures and enthusiasm.

Walter thinks that fighting crime can be fun. It isn’t about killing the bad guys but rather capturing them safely to face justice. Lance is focused on getting in, getting out and winning the mission.

The villain Killian (voiced by Ben Mendelsohn) manages to trick the agency to think that Lance is their enemy and hilarity ensues. Quickly. There are several transformations through the movie. The pigeon “disguise” is just the most obvious. As the movie progresses, Lance is transformed to see things more Walter’s way.

The characters in the movie are all pretty 1 1/2 dimensional. They are caricatures of James Bond and Q, but in an enthusiastic and loose manner.

Spies in Disguise was inspired by a short film Pigeon Impossible by Lucas Martell The creative team had a lot of fun developing a story from a short vignette into a full-length film.

My biggest disappointment with the movie was how small the audience was the day after its release. Maybe it was competing with bigger name movies and I was at an afternoon showing?

Spies in Disguise is fun and enthusiastic.