by SC Reviewer Shelby Larsen
If you are wondering why a South Korean film with a not particularly attractive name won the Academy Award for the Best Picture of 2019, you probably haven’t seen it. It’s not an “arty foreign film that only eggheads and elites” pander on about. It’s not a shrill screed on economic injustice, or criminal behavior, or duplicity in the workplace. Or perhaps it is, if you eliminate the word “shrill.” There is nothing that can be called shrill, or polemic, or hectoring in this tightly structured drama that is most reminiscent of a good Hitchcock film.
True, it takes place across a divide of income, and for lack of a better word, class in South Korea. The stories of the families at either end of the spectrum are not, however, stereotypical, and the characters, on both sides, are real empathetic human beings. It’s a tightly wound story of a con job gone wrong, of places not being what they seem, and of people not acting as predicted. Just as in the best Hitchcock films, ordinary people (both because of and regardless of their circumstances) are caught up in situations they cannot control, and need to find a way, anyway out.
The actors are all skilled; they bring light and life to the characters they inhabit. It is very much an ensemble piece, and it would be unfair to single out one or another for special praise. At this point, since none are familiar names to almost all of the American movie-going public, we can let them remain the glorious group of actors inhabiting the world of Parasite.
Yes, it is sub-titled. But the words aren’t hard, the dialogue is brief, and again, the actors are uniformly very, very good at conveying emotion without words.
To those leery of sub-titles, You Can Do It. Easily. And enjoy the picture.
To hear, as well as see, this Korean culture in its daily routine, as well as the frequent disruptions of the characters plans as they occur, is part of the magic of the film. Dubbing would, I’m afraid, dilute the intensity built as the film twists and turns wind its way to a surprising but in some ways inevitable conclusion.
When I saw the nominations, I thought this film should win the Best Picture, but it probably wouldn’t since it was a “foreign” film. I’m glad I turned out to be both right and wrong.
Perhaps that’s the lesson of “Parasite.”
If you haven’t seen it, do it now.
Perhaps you too, will come away, as I did, wondering what the title really meant.