dark waters

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by/nick luciano
focus features/126 min.

There has been a recent renaissance of investigative journalism films following the critical and commercial successes of 2015’s Spotlight. The Post followed in 2017 and was nominated for multiple Academy Awards, while Todd Haynes’ Dark Waters and Scott Z. Burns’ The Report were released days apart this year. While Dark Waters and The Report don’t revolve around journalists per se—instead following an environmental lawyer and a Senate staffer, respectively—but many of the tropes are still there: the lone investigator slowly compiling information to uncover the truth about powerful interests over the course of years, finally succeeding despite being intimidated by those interests and receiving little institutional support, all while using massive amounts of exposition to explain their findings.

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Yet Dark Waters distinguishes itself from The Report in several important ways. The Report details the investigation conducted by Daniel Jones (Adam Driver) into the CIA’s use of torture in the Middle East. While containing some interesting moral quandaries and strong performances, the film is mostly Driver yelling the report at the audience, disguised as rebuttals to the CIA’s talking points. The audience is asked to keep track of an incredible amount of information that is mostly dumped on them. There is virtually no human element outside his working relationship with Senator Dianne Feinstein (Annette Benning). At one point, Jones alludes to a romantic relationship with someone that ended because of his obsession with the report, but the audience only gets this one line—we never even know the name of the other person. Jones works with two other staffers reviewing the documents, April (Sarah Goldberg) and Julian (Lucas Dixon), but their relationships are mostly nonexistent, as April leaves the team fairly early in the film and I can’t recall Julian having a line in the second half of the film.

By comparison, the relationships in Dark Waters are much closer to the foreground. The film follows Robert Bilott (Mark Ruffalo), a corporate defense attorney at a prestigious Cincinnati law firm, who decides to take a case against the chemical company DuPont. Billot discovers that DuPont had knowingly dumped thousands of tons of toxic chemicals in a landfill, poisoning the town and surrounding areas of Parkersburg, West Virginia. As Billot digs further, he discovers that DuPont’s actions haven’t only affected the health of the town, but have implications for global health as well.

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Billot is married with young children when his investigation begins. His wife, Sarah (Anne Hathaway), is a former lawyer herself and is forced to bear much of the brunt of Billot’s obsession with the investigation. While somewhat cliched, their relationship adds a layer of motivations that aren’t present in The Report. Although Sarah believes that he is too obsessed with the report, and think he’s putting his job and lifestyle in jeopardy, she also stands up for him when he needs her the most. Billot’s interest in the case is rooted in its impact on and his relationship with other people: he is initially drawn to the case because the client, a farmer named Wilbur Tennant (Bill Camp) knows his grandmother, and is spurred on when he sees a young girl’s fluoride-blackened teeth. He often thinks of his own family, and how they could have easily been affected as well, had Billot not left the area.

The film’s color pallet is very muted and bleak—it’s almost as if the light is filtered through dark water. At its best, the visuals thoroughly complement the diseased setting of the film and draw in the viewer—I felt physically sick and tainted while watching a character drinking tainted water, and the cold light bathing the scene was a major part of that reaction. The color palette exudes hopelessness, and can at times feel overwhelmingly grim, but the hopelessness is mirrored in the obstacles Billot must overcome.

While Billot faces many hurdles, he also has many advantages that stem from his position as a lawyer at a prestigious law firm. To me, one of Dark Waters’ most interesting subversions of its subgenre, and something that I wish was developed further, is the implication of Billot’s complicity in the very systems that protect corporations like DuPont. At one point midway through the film, despite already spending more than a year on the case, Tennant angrily shouts “you’re still one of them!” at Billot. This is, of course, true. He is still a lawyer at a firm that defends other chemical companies—it’s not a stretch to imagine that some of their clients engage in similar practices—and other partners at the firm often express concern about losing business and prestige. Billot has a tremendous amount of privilege that is not afforded to the citizens of Parkersburg: he is able to put his children through Catholic school and live a comfortable lifestyle, despite not making any money for his firm while incurring tremendous expenses for the better part of a decade. Over time, Billot cedes some of this privilege, taking multiple pay cuts and suffering declining health, but there is little examination of the dichotomy between the work he does and the systems that allow him to do it beyond Tennant’s admonishment.

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Dark Waters is far from a perfect film—it’s a tad rote and overly bleak—but is elevated by its performances and examinations of class, environmentalism, and corporate greed. The film is an exposé, but it is also a call to action, that we don’t uncritically trust the systems that are meant to protect us, nor that we fail to recognize our own complicity in those systems.

honey boy

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by/nick luciano
amazon studios/93 min.

You may have noticed that there is a chicken featured prominently in the logo and promotional material for the film Honey Boy. That chicken is, of course, Henrietta Lafowl, the world’s first daredevil chicken. Henrietta does not play a major role in the film outside of symbolism, but we’ll get to that.

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Directed by Alma Har’el and written by Shia LaBeouf, Honey Boy lightly dramatizes LaBeouf’s experiences as a child actor and an adult in rehab. After drunkenly crashing his car, Otis Lort (Lucas Hedges) is sent to court-mandated rehab. Although he is often dismissive of the rehab and antagonistic with his counselors, he takes to an assignment to write about himself. This quickly evolves into writing about his relationship with his father (mirroring the real-life inception of the film).

The majority of the film takes place in lengthy flashbacks, often triggered by events in the present. The flashbacks follow a twelve-year-old Otis (Noah Jupe) and his father James (LaBeouf). Despite his successful acting career, Otis and James live in a run-down motel. James is emotionally and physically abusive, a bigot, and a sex offender.

James is obsessed with get-rich-quick schemes. This is where Henrietta comes in. The audience is first introduced to Henrietta Lafowl while James is hitting on a woman. He tries to impress her by recounting his days as a rodeo clown, and the act that he performed with Henrietta, all while being completely oblivious to Otis, who is struggling to get out of a harness by himself. Henrietta and Otis serve the same purpose to James—they are sideshows meant to be exploited to make a buck. Otis pays James to be his chaperone, correctly asserting with growing confidence that James would not be there if it was not for this money. Most of their interactions involve Otis’ career, running lines and practicing juggling almost incessantly (with pushups as a punishment for mistakes). Despite James’ reliance on Otis’ income, there are odd moments of presumably jealousy-fueled sabotage mixed into their interactions; for example, a moment when James pulls Otis out of a scene just as he was starting to do well. Their relationship causes Otis to have a skewed, transactional perception of relationships in general—to the point that he tries to pay an older girl (and probable prostitute) that he befriended (Shy Girl, played by FKA Twigs) after she spent time with him.

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Shy Girl is one of the few bright lights in Otis’ life; as such, I think that her representation is likely more romanticized than it is an accurate accounting of their friendship. There are romantic undertones presented to the audience, but I think that it is much more likely that she was someone that was kind to him and filled a gap left by Otis’ mother’s absence and his unhealthy relationship with James.

There are moments of symmetry throughout the film. Two such moments even made the trailer, comparing instances where Otis is violently ripped backward by a harness as part of a stunt. In one of the scenes, the older Otis wearily walks back to his spot—he’s clearly done this so many times throughout the years that it has lost any level of excitement for him. Other moments trigger flashbacks; for instance, a rehab exercise in a pool prompts a memory of an incident between his father and Otis’ Big Brothers Big Sisters mentor involving a pool. Even the final shot of the film mirrors an earlier scene. The most powerful of these moments mirrors a moment where Otis is by himself, juxtaposing a vibrant younger version of Otis shouting on the top of a junkyard car in a classic “king of the world” type pose with the older Otis screaming as a result of all of his emotional pain in the middle of the woods. It is one of the most beautiful, devastating, and memorable moments in the film.

It’s a credit to LeBeouf’s acting and Har’el’s adept direction that the audience is able to feel any level of pity for James. And yet, despite knowing everything he’s done in the movie and in his past, it’s hard to see someone that is so inept, ignorant, and insecure. We don’t sympathize with him or his behavior, but we can at least feel pity. But the real character arc is Otis’, who grows from a person that does not take his rehab seriously to someone who can reach a point where he can forge his own path and forgive his father. He is the embodiment of one of the film’s final lines: “a seed has to totally destroy itself to become a flower. That’s a violent act, Honey Boy.”

in fabric

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by/nick luciano
A24/118 min.

“Isn’t it a little risqué?”

“A provocation. For what else must one wear?”

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Characters throughout director Peter Strickland’s new film, In Fabric, refer to the various “sleeping dreams” that they recently experienced. The dreams are Freudian wonderlands—one character dreams about the stink of their mother’s corpse causing a bus to drive off a cliff, while another dreams that she is in the store catalog on every page, continually growing skinnier even though the size of the garment she’s wearing is increasing. Implied in categorizing an event as a sleeping dream is the existence of a “waking dream;” the film unfolds in a similarly dreamlike and provocative manner—a sort of “waking dream” in its own right.

The film primarily revolves around Sheila (Marianne Jean-Baptiste), the new owner of a haunted dress. The haunting has presumably already taken the life of the catalog model who had previously worn it (the sales clerk is kind enough to reassure Sheila that the model showered before wearing it, so the customers have nothing to worry about!). After the dress slowly destroys Sheila’s life (or, depending on your interpretation, while it continues to destroy her life), it comes into the possession of a loveless couple named Reg and Babs (Leo Bill and Hayley Squires) when Reg’s friends buy the dress to make him wear it to haze him during his bachelor party.

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Miss Luckmoore (Fatma Mohamed), the sales clerk that initially sells the dress to Sheila, absolutely steals the show. Luckmoore’s memorably baroque vocabulary and peculiar speaking cadence confound other characters as she continuously talks circles around them. She and the other clerks are members of a weird cabal, seemingly led by the gruesome Mr. Lundy, devoted to forwarding the dress to new victims. Miss Luckmoore and Mr. Lundy could be seamlessly dropped into a David Lynch film—compare their pale complexion, otherworldly inflection, and menacing dialogue to the Mystery Man from Lynch’s Lost Highway. There are many other apparent nods to Lynch, ranging from the use of red curtains to mimicking Lynch’s style of imagery and sound design in particularly surreal moments (the description of the film on the Toronto International Film Festival page includes yet another comparison to Lost Highway: a bifurcated plot). While I am a big fan of Lynch and surrealism in general, the most overtly surreal scene in the film, featuring Mr. Lundy voyeuristically watching a few clerks wipe down a mannequin, didn’t quite work for me. Perhaps I would feel different if it was directed by someone whose filmic vocabulary I was more familiar with, but the scene in question was uncomfortable and felt out of place with the rest of the film.

Another influence felt in the film is that of the Italian horror subgenre giallo. The Italian word for yellow (taken from the color of their dimestore pulp novels), giallo was an influential subgenre from the 1960s and 70s prioritizing mood, style, violence, and psychosexuality over plot and characterization. In Fabric, much like giallo films, is not particularly interested in answering questions and tying up loose ends. Images of the dress hovering menacingly over its future victims, or of a maintenance room with way too many mannequins than anyone could reasonably feel comfortable around, would feel right at home in a giallo. The icing on the pastiche cake is the score. Much like the score to famed giallo director Dario Argento’s film Suspiria (1977) by the band Goblin, Cavern of Anti-Matter’s score to In Fabric is synth-heavy with a simple, haunting melody, evoking that earlier subgenre while setting a suspenseful mood over the film.

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While clearly an entertaining film, I could never quite shake that it felt like an episode from the early series of the sci-fi anthology Black Mirror. It’s hard to say why (although it may be as superficial as being produced by BBC Films—early seasons of Black Mirror were similarly produced by a British television production company, Channel 4). This is not entirely meant to be a criticism, as I am a big fan of those early seasons. While the film has some satire, it isn’t quite as overt and pointed as the best of Black Mirror. There is certainly a critique of consumerism present in the final moments of the film that thread can be extended to the rest of the film, even if tenuously so. I think that it would be valid to read the dress as a stand-in for consumerism—Sheila purchases it to increase her self-esteem pending date following a separation from her husband; in reality, she is feeding into the systems that are oppressing/killing her.

The film probably isn’t for everyone, especially people who don’t enjoy surrealism or unresolved plotlines. But In Fabric displays capable acting, fantastic cinematography, evocative music, and an entertaining story, and is well worth a look. It wears its provocations boldly, rarely falling flat and keeping the audience in suspense until the end.

waves

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by/alex abrams
a24/135 min.

The camera spins as it follows high school wrestler Tyler (a brilliant Kelvin Harrison Jr.) in the opening minutes of “Waves.” The nonstop movement captures an average day in Tyler’s life, from singing in his truck with his girlfriend, Alexis (Alexa Demie), to sitting through class and lifting weights.

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Like the Academy Award-winning “Moonlight,” “Waves” deals with themes revolving around what it means to be a black man growing up in South Florida. Both films show their protagonists floating in the ocean as if the water will cleanse their souls and protect them from the harsh realities of life.

If only things were so simple.

An amazing cast carries “Waves,” which is emotionally draining but so compelling you can’t take your eyes off the impending disasters. Harrison and Taylor Russell, playing Tyler’s confused younger sister, Emily, shine in their breakout performances. “Waves” is both of their stories. The first half of the film focuses on the mounting pressure that Tyler — with his dyed blonde hair — feels as he struggles with a wrestling injury, relationship problems and a demanding father (Sterling K. Brown) with good intentions. When things take a turn, “Waves” becomes about Emily’s journey.

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“Waves” runs the risk of feeling like two films in one. However, Harrison and Russell do an incredible job bringing Shults’ vision to life and showing that the brother and sister share the same story. They balance out the film. Tyler and Emily are each suffering, but they express their pain in much different ways. At any time, though, it’s possible for them to go down the same path. More than once, you might feel compelled to holler at the screen to try to get them to make better choices.

Brown brings both heart and intensity as Ronald, the patriarch of the family. Some moviegoers might be taken aback by his performance, which is much darker than he has become known for as the loving, driven father, Randall, he plays in NBC’s “This Is Us.”

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Brown avoids going over the top with his performance. When he breaks down while talking to his daughter during a fishing trip, you realize he’s just as flawed, hurt and human as the other characters. He’s doing the best he can, but he’s ill-equipped.  Acclaimed Broadway actress Renée Elise Goldsberry — who performed earlier this year on Wake Forest University’s campus — rounds out the family as Ronald’s wife Catharine.

Nothing in “Waves” easily drifts through the film. It’s one crashing wave after another, but if you can stomach it, the payoff is well worth it. Just leave some time after the film ends to let it all sink in.

knives out (another take)

by/amanda clark
Lionsgate/130 min.

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I’m usually weary of movies with all-star casts. For some reason, they tend to disappoint (see 2016’s “Mother’s Day”, 2013’s “The Big Wedding” or most movie musicals as a point of reference). But “Knives Out” is one of the most clever, entertaining, keep you guessing ’til the end films I’ve ever seen. All of the stars killed it (pun intended) and while it does run a bit long, they tie up every single loose end. And there were quite a few to tie up. If you’re a fan of murder mysteries and dark comedies, you’ll enjoy this fun, Clue-esque flick.

We meet the eccentric Thrombey Family as they’re mourning the loss of their patriarch, Harlan (played by the always fantastic Christopher Plummer). Everyone is under the impression that Harlan committed suicide, and everyone also assumes their place in his will. It’s only until Detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) arrives that anyone suspects foul play, and threads begin to unravel. I loved Daniel Craig in this role. His slow Southern drawl seemingly began as an annoying farce, but I actually became quite fond of this character and his vernacular.

Each family member is interviewed by Detective Blanc and his sidekicks (one of whom is the lovely LaKeith Stanfield) and each one seems to have something to hide. Daughter Linda (Jamie Lee Curtis), son Walt (Michael Shannon), son-in-law Richard (Don Johnson), daughter-in-law Joni (Toni Collette) and grandson Ransom (Chris Evans) become prime suspects. Detective Blanc enlists Harlan’s nurse Marta (a stunning performance delivered by Ana de Armas) to help him piece the puzzle together. She suffers from a condition where lying makes her physically ill, so anytime she’s questioned, they have a bowl handy for her.

Just when you think you might have a handle on this who-dunnit, the plot swings a different direction. It moves very quickly once it starts approaching its climax. I appreciated this unique, fresh storyline as well as the film work: tight camera angels and contrasting stark and dim lighting added to the element of mystery and reminds you that everyone is a suspect. I highly recommend this entertaining film. You’re sure to appreciate this story and its quirky characters.

read more of Amanda’s reviews at cuisineandscreen.com

 

knives out

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by/quentin norris
Lionsgate/130 min.

Rian Johnson loves puzzles.  Each one of his movies begin in some form of chaos, with either the audience, the lead protagonist, or both thrown into a strange new world where nothing makes sense, whether a high school lover was found dead, leaving a mysterious trail of bread crumbs, or an assassin who murders targets from the future only to find himself as the target.

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But from there, things slowly falls into place, and as the story moves forward, the fog lifts and the audience starts to see the big picture and delights in following along with Johnson and his characters to find out what happens next.

Every film from his debut, Brick, to his largest (and strangely, still most divisive) film, The Last Jedi, is made up of fragments, gears, and wheels that only function to their full potential once they’re part of a whole. Each also plays like a pastiche love letter to the kinds of movies that Johnson grew up loving: Noir (Brick), Heist (The Brothers Bloom), Sci-Fi/Fantasy (Looper and Star Wars). So it was only a matter of time before he made a classic, stylish, murder mystery in the shadow of Agatha Christie.

But here’s where Johnson’s true talent comes to light.  He’s not just a puzzle maker. Purposefully constructed movies can only go so far before they begin to lose their luster and the tricks up their sleeves are simply tiresome instead of winsome and charming.  But these films age better with time, and the reason lies in the characters developed at the center of the movies.  Knives Out is not a murder mystery, well, not entirely at least. Make no mistake, there is a murder mystery in Knives Out, but more importantly, it is all about the most unlikely of characters, Marta Cabrera (Ana de Armas).

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Marta is an immigrant living with her sister and taking care of her undocumented mother in a small apartment in upstate New York. She’s making ends meet by working as a nurse for Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer), an elderly writer who has built an empire out of his ability to crank out two murder mystery novels a year, published by his son, Walt (Michael Shannon). On the night of his eighty-fifth birthday, his family gathers from all around for a party at his estate and one by one, he informs them that he is cutting off the money they had depended on for so long.  But his satisfaction at finally cutting them off is short lived when the housekeeper, Fran (Edi Patterson), discovers Harlan, dead in his study, supposedly of suicide, although a famous detective, Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) has shown up on the scene after an anonymous tip and thinks there’s more to this death than meets the eye.

Stuck in the middle is Marta, who the entire Thrombey family preys upon with a mask of only the best intentions.  They sing the praises of Marta, but only for their own personal gain, patting themselves on the back for supporting an immigrant, even though they don’t even remember what country Marta is even from.  They assure her that she is simply part of the family but the invisible lines are clearly drawn and they still treat her as though she were “the help.”  Marta wants nothing to do with the investigation of Harlan’s murder but after Benoit Blanc discovers that Marta has an unusual reaction to the act of lying, he keeps her close and keeps referring to her as his personal Watson.

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Knives Out joins the ranks of other great 2019 films like Us, and Parasite, as a film primarily about class division and the ugly effects it has on humanity.  Knives Out is about status, power, and privilege.  It’s about the kind of racism that likes to hide beneath a veil of good intentions, the kind that many feel threatened by when they’re called out for harboring it.  It’s about Marta navigating these rough waters and fighting to keep her head above the surface. The movie remembers that Marta is the beating heart of what makes it all work and no matter how complicated the web of characters gets, we continue to view Marta as our audience surrogate through it all.

The web surrounding Marta is another key element in the success of Knives Out. Each member of the ensemble is so delightfully cast.  Johnson understands the exact appeal and strengths of each performer from Michael Shannon’s brooding, bubbling anger to Jamie Lee Curtis’ cutting sense of wit.  Most of the actors are given roles they excel at and so rarely get the opportunity to play from Toni Collette’s air-headed goofball to Chris Evans throwing away the title of America’s golden boy to embrace the chance to be a total jerk with no social skills.  And then there’s Daniel Craig, hungry for any roles that are as far away from James Bond as possible. Craig is having so much fun with his southern fried Hercule Poirot that it’s impossible not to be giddy with joy yourself while watching him excitedly ham it up with an hysterically funny script from Johnson.

 

Johnson’s most admirable quality as a writer/director is that no matter what, he’s dedicated to working with a creative team that he has developed a perfect second language with. Rian’s brother Nathan has scored every film of his except for Star Wars (Which John Williams kind of has on lock down) and Steve Yedlin has shot every film including Star Wars.  Both understand the creative heights that Knives Out requires and Yedlin especially succeeds in creating a riveting visual story that keeps you on your feet, cooperating with the Production Designer, David Crank, to turn the vast Thrombey estate into its own living and breathing character.

Knives Out dodges the typical mystery dilemma. Once the murder has been solved, why go back? Knowing the answer, is the film still entertaining? In this case, the answer is an unabashed yes, thanks to a lovely world filled with an absurd and delightful cast of oddball characters and hundreds of fun visual clues sprinkled throughout the film. I’ll be more than happy in the future to take this solved puzzle and throw it back onto the floor so I can put it all together again.

 

parasite (a third take)

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by/nick luciano
NEON/132 min.

*The following review contains information that could be interpreted as light spoilers*

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In the opening moments of director Bong Joon-ho’s new satirical film, Parasite, we’re introduced to members of the Kim family in a scene that is a microcosm of the film: a passing exterminator is fumigating the street, and the Kims decide to seize the opportunity to get a free round of pest control by leaving their windows open as he sprays. The family of four is still in the apartment as this happens, and they spend the rest of the scene choking and gagging as the noxious chemicals pour into the room. It will certainly not be the last time that we see the Kim family’s desire to achieve a better station in their lives, regardless of the consequences to themselves and others.

Bong’s films are typically heavily satirical or political: his 2013 film Snowpiercer tells the story of a perpetual-motion locomotive segregated by class barrelling through a world wrecked by a man-made ice age, while 2006’s The Host shows an inept government trying to respond to the rampage of a giant river monster. While both older movies are fantastic in their own right, what makes Parasite effective is the banality and recognizability of the characters and the ordinariness of their surroundings. The Kims aren’t having to survive a monster attack or a train-based dystopia, they’re trying to achieve the same thing that many of us are: upward mobility within a system that is meant to prevent such movement.

When the film begins, the Kims are struggling to make ends meet: their apartment is terrible, the neighbors have password-protected their wifi, and they’re barely holding onto a job folding pizza boxes for a local restaurant. Their luck begins to change when their son, Ki-woo, is hired to tutor the daughter of a rich local businessman named Park Dong-ik, thanks to a friend’s recommendation and a forged college diploma (Ki-woo justifies this act by saying that he plans to go to college next year, so he is merely getting the diploma he is going to earn anyways in advance). The Kims begin to systematically insert themselves into the lives of the Parks: first their daughter, Ki-jeong, inflates her art credentials to become the art tutor/therapist for the Parks’ young son, and then their father, Ki-taek, becomes the Parks’ chauffeur. The most elaborate, and in the end costly, move is the installation of the Kim matriarch, Chung-sook, as the Parks’ housekeeper, which involves a lot of planning and an unfortunate peach allergy.

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The Parks are none the wiser throughout the Kim’s machinations; but then, they are largely engrossed in their own issues—they are so disconnected from the rest of the world that they aren’t even aware of secrets within their own house. Bong paints a scathing picture with the Parks as an avatar for the rich—they are concerned only with appearances, stocking their house with frivolously large collections of liquor, fine china, and pickled goods while accepting any nonsense about their children’s “genius.” Mrs. Park’s entire identity is micromanaging her children, to the point where she has nothing to do when they’re out of her sight—often either falling asleep or staring pointlessly into space when they aren’t in her sight, while Mr. Park is barely present both in his family’s life or the film to even form a characterization.

The Kims are not particularly less despicable, but, oddly enough, they are still more sympathetic. After all, who among us hasn’t wanted to move up in the world? We may not go to the drastic means that the Kims remorselessly go to, but the desire to do so is still there. Eventually, they even begin to believe that they are succeeding, picturing themselves living in the upscale house owned by the Parks, which was designed by a well-known (fictional) architect. Ki-taek’s inevitable realization that they will be looked down upon by the upper class no matter how far they get in life directly results in the final tragedies of the film.

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Parasite’s examination of class does not hamper or bog-down the movie, as Bong masterfully weaves his satire into a story that is equal parts tense, heartbreaking, unpredictable, and laugh-out-loud funny. There is also a symmetry and circuitousness to the film. About three-quarters of the way through the film, Ki-taek laments the uselessness of making plans, stating that “life cannot be planned,” and nihilistically positing that “it doesn’t matter what comes next.” These musings undercut his son Ki-woo’s optimism in the films final moments, when he makes a plan for his future involving moving up the social ladder once again. Despite everything that has happened, the Kims are mostly right back where they started, down to the pairs of socks drying in the window, destined along with the rest of the lower class to repeat the cycle in perpetuity.