When Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon swept through America and earned Oscar nominations across the board, it was heralded as the east finally invading Hollywood and bringing their distinct brand of storytelling with them. But this was not entirely true. Ang Lee’s tale at the turn of the millennium had an eastern backdrop and storyline, but the storytelling itself was east-lite. Or, to be more accurate, it was what happens when Greek-style storytelling is inserted into an eastern tale. The results were magnificent.
Parasite by Bong Joon-ho is a completely different animal. It’s purely eastern storytelling through-and-through. At no point does it try to mimic the plot structure western audiences have grown accustomed to, and this more than anything else is why it was nominated for Best Picture and a slew of other Academy Awards. In Hollywood, all-too-often we see directors trying to be clever by subverting expectations. This singular trend can be blamed for the downfall of the great Star Wars storyline that, after a solid foundation with Episode 7, turned to dust quickly in Episode 8 and failed to recover in Episode 9.
If you plan on seeing Parasite already, read nothing about the story, Read nothing from critics that may hint of spoilers. I’ll tell you upfront that I won’t spoil a thing for you here. It’s just not my style. All I’ll do is warn you: It’s rarely what you’d expect, and just as you think you know where it’s going, it doesn’t. And in the end we have the perfect depiction of purely eastern storytelling encapsulated not in an epic like the very western-influenced Crouching Tiger, which I loved, but in a sordid tale that is reminiscent of certain qualities in Quentin Tarantino movies.
That brings me to those who aren’t sure if they want to watch it. Here’s the smell test. If you like Tarantino movies because they take your for a ride of unexpected resolutions and not just because they’re pretty darn cool, then you’ll probably enjoy this movie. It’s ironic that the Parasite is going up against Once Upon a Time in Hollywood because of all the Tarantino movies, this is the one that’s closest in pace to Parasite. Granted, Parasite isn’t nearly as long and drawn out, but sometimes it feels like it is. Nevertheless, there’s plenty of humor and intrigue to keep you moving along despite not knowing where you’re heading.
Will it win Best Picture? Probably not. 1917 and The Irishman seem to have the most Oscar-buzz while Joker and Marriage Story are this year’s dark horses. But the first Korean film nominated has a chance because it’s the first. If quality is the only criteria, it’s hard to argue against Parasite. It was flawless.