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Parasite

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Parasite Movie Poster Image
Brilliant Korean social satire has dark comedy, violence.
  • R
  • 2019
  • 132 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Though its messages have complex layers, the movie asks pointed questions about both the rich and their tendency to insulate themselves from others' problems and the yearning of the poor to become just like the rich. The poor must scheme and ask for help to get by, but as soon as anyone gets the upper hand, they attempt to crush the poor and stop them from advancing. Why are we like this? Is it possible to change and become more aware of the suffering and needs of our fellow humans?

Positive Role Models & Representations

While clever and often likable, most of the characters here are satirical in nature. They are capable of unsavory deeds, though there are consequences.

Violence

Brief scenes of intense gore. Stabbing, skewering. Characters fight and hit each other with blunt objects. Lots of blood. A fall down concrete stairs. A character gets a concussion; another is briefly trapped in a noose. Characters die. A character suddenly swipes all the food and drink from a table, smashing it on the floor. A man grabs his wife by her shirt in pretend anger.

Sex

A married couple engages in sexual activity on a couch; he touches her breast, and she touches his crotch, moaning and saying sex-related things. A young man kisses a teen girl. A young woman removes her underwear in the back of a car. A man grabs his wife's buttock. Strong sex talk.

Language

Multiple uses of "f--k," "s--t," "a--hole," "bitch," "piss," "screwed," "scumbag," and "oh God," all translated in the English subtitles.

Consumerism

Mention of WhatsApp.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

An entire family drinks heavily in one scene, whiskey and other kinds of liquor. Some of them become slurring drunk. Young character smokes cigarettes. A staggeringly drunken character urinates in an alleyway. Mentions of hard drugs (meth, cocaine).

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Parasite is a brilliant social satire from acclaimed South Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-ho (Snowpiercer, The Host). It's alternately funny, shocking, and thoughtful, but it's also quite mature. Expect a few scenes of extremely strong violence, blood, and gore, with stabbing, fighting, hitting with blunt objects, and death. One character gets trapped in a noose, and another is knocked down concrete stairs. English subtitles include multiple uses of "f--k," "s--t," "a--hole," "bitch," and more. A married couple gets frisky on a couch; he rubs her breast, and she grabs his crotch. There's also kissing, plus other sexual situations and sex-related talk. One scene shows an entire family drinking heavily and getting drunk; a young woman smokes cigarettes, and a staggeringly drunk man urinates in an alleyway.

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What's the story?

In PARASITE, the Kim family -- father Ki-taek (Song Kang-ho), mother Chung-sook (Hyae Jin Chang), daughter Ki-jung (Park So-dam), and son Ki-woo (Choi Woo-sik) -- are all unemployed, folding pizza boxes in their dumpy, basement-level apartment to earn a little cash. Through a friend, Ki-woo gets the chance to tutor Park Da-hye (Jung Ziso) the daughter of a wealthy family, even though he's not a student. Turning on the charm, Ki-woo gets the job. Then, he and Ki-jung scheme to score a position for her, too, as an art therapist for the family's precocious youngest son. More plotting results in the firing of the family's driver and maid, providing jobs for Chung-sook and Ki-taek. Things seem to be looking up at last for the Kims -- until a bizarre secret turns everything totally sideways.

Is it any good?

South Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-ho already has an impeccable track record, but he's stepped up his game with this brilliant, powerfully revealing social satire. Certainly Parasite might feel uneven to some audiences because of its radical shifts in tone -- from clever comedy to violent, dark tragedy -- but it's more likely that Bong has executed everything as planned. Each insignificant detail, from the young boy Da-song's love of Native Americans to a peach allergy to the Kim family's sad little half-basement apartment, has been planted for some specific, exacting reason.

Cleanly and slickly constructed, Parasite takes perverse pleasure in scamming the rich during its leisurely, funny first half, and that pleasure is contagious. When the second half comes, it's not only a narrative shock, but it also forces viewers to ask hard questions about why the first half was so enjoyable. In earlier films like The Host, Snowpiercer, and Okja, Bong slyly explored the impact that humans have had on our environment. In Parasite, he looks at an even bigger picture. He wonders why humans tend to look away from, or insulate themselves from, others' troubles and suffering. In this movie, reaching the high ground is certainly desirable, but those occupying the low ground aren't going anywhere.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Parasite's violence. Is it shocking, or thrilling? How did it make you feel? How did the filmmakers achieve this effect? What's the impact of media violence on kids?

  • What does the movie have to say about class differences? How do the rich and poor view each other? How do they relate to one another?

  • How is sex depicted? What values are imparted?

  • How is drinking depicted? Is it glamorized? Are there consequences? Why does that matter?

  • Are any of the characters admirable? Can non-admirable characters still be interesting?

Movie details

For kids who love offbeat movies

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