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Flicks With Nicki – Why we are still thinking about ‘Parasite’

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Flicks With Nicki – Why we are still thinking about ‘Parasite’

Photo by Nicki Salcedo

If you haven’t seen “Parasite,” you’re wondering why all your friends are talking about it. If you have seen “Parasite,” you can’t quite get it out of your head. It is visually appealing. In turns, the story is funny and strange and terrifying. It is a love story, an act of resistance, and a horror movie. Director Bong Joon-ho starts underneath. We see a family in their apartment below street level. That means the only place to go is up.

Kim Ki-woo (Choi Woo Shik) is tired of folding pizza boxes. He is smart, but not privileged. When his friend offers him a chance to take his place as the tutor for an affluent family, Ki-woo is willing to lie for the opportunity.

He walks up. Up the street, up the neighborhood, and up the stairs to a glass house with a family similar to his own. Mother, father, son, daughter. The job is lucrative, and the family needs more help. The boy needs an art tutor. Ki-woo suggests his sister, and the lies become bigger.

The money from the two jobs would be enough to change the Kim family, but lure of employment means the Kims connive to get the chauffer fired and the housekeeper dismissed. Suddenly, the lie is so big the Kims pretend not to be related at all. The wealthy Park family each have a servant of their own.

The Park family are not victims, and they are not villains. The teenage daughter is apt to fall in love with any tutor that walks through the door. The mother must have help with meals. The windows are spotless. The floors shine like mirrors. The father must be driven. His only requirement is that lines must not be crossed.

This is the dangerous “Downton Abbey” of modern South Korea.

We realize the boy is a part of the mystery. There was a strange incident he hasn’t recovered from. A ghost? A dream? A parasite?

We spend the first part of the movie wondering if the Kims will be able to pull off the lies.

We spend the middle part of the movie in fear of when the lies will be uncovered.

Kim Ki-taek (Song Kang Ho) is the father who must hold his tongue and keep his place after hearing the profound indignity that the Parks think they smell. We fear that Ki-taek will soon cross the line. He might be beneath notice, but he is still a man with pride.

We spend the last part of the movie in awe and fear. There are bigger lies and secrets to be uncovered underneath it all.

There are twists. And another twist. And a final twist. Straight out of Shakespeare: All are punished.

We are still thinking about this movie because at times we loved each character. Their wants and lies are not too far from our own. We’ve all had that moment where we believed a pristine house with sharp edges is somehow better than that dirty San Francisco apartment with holes in the floor.

We’ve all endured indignities.

We’ve all averted our eyes away from the underclass.

We’ve all said, “When they go low, we go high.”

We’ve all actually known that when they go low, we might be willing to go lower.

If we’ve been lucky in life, we’ve had families we would die for and families we would lie for. The last question is when would you kill. Who will pay the price? Who will live and who will die?

We will hover on the landing of the stairs. Which way should we go?

Beautiful acting and cinematography. Near flawless script. The twists are fantastical and strange, so the movie defies genre. It also defies the ability to be predictable. If you aren’t sure about “Parasite,” you can try some earlier films by Bong Joon-ho. “The Host” (2006) and “Snowpiercer” (2013) are bleak and twisty, but still about tender relationships in harsh circumstances. “Parasite” is the kind of movie you see with your book club, talk about it for hours, and still feel shock/sadness/hopefulness about the ending. Grade A-.

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