It is difficult to pick a favourite character from Bong Joon-ho’s Oscar-winning, history-making film Parasite. There’s Park Yeon-kyo (Jo Yeo-jeong), a wealthy woman consistently shocked by reality. Or, there’s Geun-se (Myeong-hoon Park), a man with one of the most disturbing entrances of modern cinema.
However, if you really had to name the best person in all of Parasite — the 2020 Oscars’ Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay winner — you’ll likely end up naming Park So-Dam’s peach-wielding, effortlessly cool Kim daughter, Ke-jeon. Ke-jeon, who uses the Anglicized name “Jessica” with the gullible Park clan, is the true, unapologetic mastermind of her family (and can swig expensive alcohol out of a bottle like no other).
If you’re desperate to see more from the woman who brought Ke-jeon to life, 28-year-old South Korean actress Park, you’re in luck. Ke-jeon’s portrayer has a long history of Korean TV shows and movies that came before Parasite — and one of her most delightful series, Cinderella and the Four Knights, is streaming on Netflix right now.
If Parasite is a twisty five-course dinner, Cinderella is the zippy dessert you didn't know you needed afterwards.
Park So-dam leads 2016’s Cinderella as Eun Ha-won, a working class high school senior who dreams of going to college while also freeing her family from a grief-related debt. In keeping with the Cinderella theme, Ha-won has a late mother, an absent father (Seo Hyun-chul), a cruel step-mother (Choi Eun-kyung), and a spoiled step-sister (Go Bo Gyeol).
Yet, Ha-won’s romantic prospects shatter the traditional fairytale narrative, as the series premiere’s opening scene signals. When we meet Ha-won, she is telling a group of young girls she babysits the story of Cinderella and eventually gets to the “Happily ever after” portion. Then Ha-won screams “As if!” before explaining, “Cinderellas these days don’t have time to meet any princes. Because all they do is work. On top of that, ‘princes’ nowadays are just complete jerks … I wish someone would tell them to stop being so entitled.”
That populist outlook gives us one of the most memorable scenes of Cinderella's first episode. In the scene, delivery person Ha-won kicks a rich brat across a nightclub for trying to stiff her on a bill. “Apologize for calling me ‘delivery vermin,’” she demands, starting the kind of conversation Bong Joon-ho could be proud of. Ha-won reminds her cowering adversary just how many people are driving around South Korea in that moment working to keep affluent customers happy.
Plucky displays like that instance from Ha-won — particularly one during a high society wedding — eventually nab her a money-making gig with the billionaire Kang business family. If Ha-won can whip the rebellious Kang cousins into shape, their CEO grandfather (Yong-geon Kim) will pay her college tuition, and then some. This very fairy tale-esque framing sets Ha-won on a traditional rom-com journey of love triangles with wealthy dreamboats, shocking revelations, and self-discovery.
That is why Cinderella is perfect for people who are still mourning the loss of Jane the Virgin following its July 2019 series finale. Like Jane, Cinderella is enamored with the mechanics of fairy-tale romance — in this case, obviously, Cinderella is the main inspiration — while remaining critical of them. Both series also put their working class heroines in the glamorous throes of big business and the fictional handsome men who populate it.
Delightfully, both rom-coms are even fueled by a passion for magical realism. The romance of Jane could be easily defined by its use of falling white flowers and snow to visualize the abrupt feelings of falling in love. Cinderella, technically an adaptation of a 2011 Korean novel of the same name, is filled with tongue-in-cheek on-screen doodles and purposefully impossible stunts. Ha-won's flying stunt in the nightclub, or the sight of a love interest performing a kick-flip in the middle of the street, is proof of such habits.