There is a hashtag that does the rounds every so often on Social Media. It is the #UnpopularOpinion tag where people find a safe place to express an opinion that goes against the tide of popular opinion. For example, I used it once to express the opinion that Mrs Brown's Boys was not very good. You get the idea. Well in the case of writer and director Bong Joon Ho's latest film I appear to be swimming against the tide. Parasite is a good film but it's not a great film and in my opinion did not deserve the Best Film Oscar it was recently awarded.
The film itself is a fairly mechanical farce. A relatively poor family, the Kims live in a semi-basement dwelling in South Korea - we don't know the specific location. They bemoan their situation and devise schemes to earn money such as folding pizza boxes for a local takeaway. By chance, the family's son, Ki-woo (played by Woo-sik Choi) inveigles his way into the lives of the Park family as an English language tutor to their daughter. The Parks live in an architect-designed house and are very wealthy. Ki-woo persuades the Parks to hire and art-therapy teacher to help their son. The teacher just happens to be Ki-woo's sister Ki-jung (played by So-dam Park). And so through various farcical means they replace the Park's driver with their Dad, Ki-taek (Kang-ho Song) and the housekeeper with their mother, Chung-sook (Hye-jin Jang).
One can almost see the cogs of the plot turning as Bong weaves his social commentary on screen. That's what this film is - an old trope whereby farce is used to comment on the state of society. Admittedly, the film then takes a sharp left-turn and for the sake of those who have not seen it, I'll refrain from saying any more. Suffice to say, the old adage that everything in a film is there for a reason and the stone that is given to Ki-woo early on turns up again later with devastating consequences.
I laughed in all the right places and I peeked through my fingers where I was supposed to. But the film left me a little empty, wanting more. Maybe the fact that I had high expectations from a Best Film Oscar-winner set my bar too high? I struggled to find an emotional core and a motivation beyond envy. Everything is clever. Tab A goes into slot B easily. There are other films that have done this better. Jim Jarmusch's 2019 film The Dead Don't Die or Jordan Peele's 2019 Us have similar messages and are better films.
I'm not saying don't go see it. A word of warning though, it is a sub-titled film (which doesn't bother me). It is a farce. It is a satire on society. It is entertaining. It is good. It's just not great.