Year: 2019
Production Co: Barunson E&A
Director: Bong Joon Ho
Writer: Bong Joon Ho
Cast: Kang-ho Song, Sun-kyun Lee, Yeo-jeong Jo, Woo-sik Choi, So-dam Park, Jeong-eun Lee

There's a long and proud tradition in Hollywood of the filmmaking and filmgoing firmament celebrating something barely above subpar (sometimes outright terrible) just because it represents an aspiration the chardonnay socialist classes who make up the industry want to reach around diversity, representation or appearing 'woke'.

None of which is to denigrate Joon-ho Bong's obvious talent as a director. This film is perfectly slick and professionally made and it's in no way subpar when it comes to the technique. But Best Picture? What the hell was I missing?

It's about a lower class Seoul family who make their living doing mind numbing work like folding pizza boxes, using the patchy wi-fi from the floor above in their building because they can't afford their own and longing for better lives. But unlike the comparable made-good fable this story would be from a Hollywood production (and I'm sure a cack-handed Western remake is in the works) the Kim family are not nice or moral people.

When a friend of the son, Ki-woo, suggests he take over the job of tutoring the daughter of the rich Park family while he's overseas, Ki-woo takes the job gladly. It works out so well a plan slowly hatches in the minds of the devious Kims to pose as various professionals, recommending each other to work for the Kims and gradually ingratiating themselves into their lives and beautiful house, finally getting a taste of the good life they've always wanted.

Daughter Ki-jung pretends she's an art scholar and ends up tutoring the Parks' precocious son. After framing the Park businessman patriarch's usual driver for a sexual escapade that never happened, father Ki-taek gets a job as the new driver. Dislodging the Parks' longtime maid is harder work but soon Kim family mother Chung-sook is their housekeeper instead.

And all that's okay if a bit melodramatic and lightweight, but then it goes into some strange territory of the former housekeeper coming back around and revealing a terrible secret in the house behind a hidden door, a repeated motif about a precious rock and a birthday party that turns into a surreal nightmare of bloodshed.

There have been reams of ink and digital bits written about what an effective comment it is on classism in modern South Korea, and I'm sure that (like fellow Asian director Wong Kar-Wai did in In The Mood For Love about 1960s Hong Kong) Bong gets all the details from set dressing and design to the cultural tics in the script just perfect. But I was left with a distinct sensation that felt like 'so what'? Best Picture? There were far better movies in 2019.

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