“I could go on for days about why I loved this movie, but really it is something that has to speak for itself.”
Last night I finally got around to watching Okja, and I loved even more than I thought I would. When I first heard about Okja I had just loaded up Netflix and the ad for the film started playing. I let it run for a few seconds, and then the sheer absurdity of it made me leave it on for a few more seconds. As soon as I saw that the film starred not only Jake Gyllenhaal, but also Paul Dano I was in. The sense I got from the trailer is the exact feeling I got form the movie. It was whimsical, heartwarming, and a truly beautiful story.
Okja starts off and immediately you can tell what you’re getting into. We are introduced to a very eccentric CEO played by Tilda Swinton, who walks out on stage in front of a bunch of press and investors in her vibrant outfit and noticeable braces and tells us about a super pig that was found in another country. She goes on to explain that this super pig was tested, and 26 more super pigs were developed and shipped around the world to 26 different farmers in an attempt to raise the best super pig the world has ever seen. The ultimate goal is to end world hunger by producing these pigs that are very environmentally efficient. The direction, the acting, and the writing in this scene tells you exactly what you’re in for. It’s quirky, it’s outlandish, but the groundwork for this idea is not one that is completely unfounded. The film cuts to ten years later, and we get to meet up with one of these super Pigs in South Korea; this pig is Okja. The film continues on and we get to see a very heartwarming story about a little girl growing up with Okja, and all of the adventures they have in the mountains of South Korea. The film continues on with more quirkiness with the introduction of Jake Gyllenhaal’s character Dr. Johnny Wilcox, a television wildlife presenter who is also the judge for the super pig competition. This is where the film starts to take a turn. We get to laugh a whole lot at how funny this movie is, but the plot kind of takes a turn as Okja is captured and taken back to America. Luckily with this occurrence we are introduced to ALF, the Animal Liberation Front, headlined by none other than Paul Dano. This group is easily the source of many of the laughs had in the film, and their introduction really brings out the (what I would call) Wes Anderson qualities of Okja. The comedy is quick, the charters are bizarre, and the story is unconventional. So overall Okja is just a really heartwarming funny story, and that’s about it.
Well, unless you keep watching that is. I liked Okja so much because it managed to create this wholesome, hilarious world and then ,like a carpet being pulled from under your feet, you were immediately thrust into a very dark, harsh reality. This portion of the review will stop summarizing the movie, and instead will summarize some of the themes present. Okja is a film that is obviously a commentary on capitalism, food production, and animal activism, but I liked it so much because these themes weren’t necessarily shoved down your throat. Sure if you’re a smart person you’ll realize that the terrible treatment of Okja throughout the film parallels the treatment of real animals today, but the film never goes so far as to point that out to you. At it’s core Okja is a film about a little girl trying to get her friend back. But this tonal shift in the films as so natural that I couldn’t help but be amazed. When the film started I was amazed at how much I liked Tilda Swinton’s character. She was smart, she was in-touch, and most importantly she understood the ins and outs of business. But as the film went on it was able to change not her character, but my perception of her. Soon these qualities the I liked all turned to things that I despised about her. And a lot of that rests of Swinton’s shoulder’s because the performance she gave in this film was fucking impeccable. The same can be said for Jake Gyllenhaal’s character who also goes through a major shift, but this one is more his character changing rather than my perception. This change takes Dr. Johnny Wilcox from a loveable (well, mostly loveable) buffoon, to a very disgusting human being who, despite his motives being understandable, makes your skin crawl. On the flip-side of this you have everyone in the ALF who did amazing jobs as the more thoroughly wholesome characters in the film. Paul Dano and Steven Yeun play the two caring members in the group and Lily Collins, Daniel Henshall, and Devon Bostick play the members who are more preoccupied with the mission than the people involved. All of these performances fill out this already amazing story and elevate it into something that I found absolutely magical. You also have great performances by Giancarlo Esposito and Seo-Hyun Ahn, who did a great job as the film’s protagonist. I also really liked how stylized the film was, both in large ideas and smaller details. First of all, the design of Okja was amazing, and the CGI was right there with it. It’s not easy creating a digital creature that doesn’t exist in the world and making it look good, but the team behind Okja did just that. I also really liked the smaller things like the outfits in the film, because they made the world feel even more unique. It was almost like seeing America through South Korea’s eyes, with outfits that we may find ridiculous but they would find trendy.
I could go on for days about why I loved this movie, but really it is something that has to speak for itself. With wonderful performances, a touching story, and an atmosphere that will entertain you for hours, Okja is a movie that everyone should go and see right now.
I give Okja an A