MovieBob Reviews: OKJA

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    Is Okja Good?

    I liked it, but I’m not 100% sure it actually “works.”

    What’s it about?

    Plotwise, a multinational agribusiness conglomerate decides to get the public on board with its new genetically-engineered “superpig” livestock. Through a publicity stunt, it sends 26 of the individual animals off to quaint rural family farms all over the world ostensibly in order to determine which old-fashioned method of husbandry works best. Ten years later, one such superpig reared in the mountains of rural Korea named Okja has grown up into the lovable pet and more-or-less best friend of a young girl named Mija. When the big bad corporation shows up to take Okja back, Mija tries to follow and rescue her.

    So it’s a family movie?

    Not exactly. See, this comes from Bong Joon-ho – the director of Snowpiercer and The Host.

    Oh. So a lot of different genres all mixed together, like those were?

    Yeah. Despite the initial premise, the content is pretty R-rated. Mija’s quest attracts attention, and she finds herself being alternately wooed, pursued, harassed, aided, abused and used both by the publicity-minded corporation and by a bumbling group of ideologically-confused animal rights militants. We’re forced to see a lot of awful things happen to Okja and the other superpigs once they get to the corporation’s processing facilities. It’s all extremely grotesque, designed as a satire of marketing and Occupy-style media-centric activism.

    So it’s a message-movie?

    Yes and no. The factory-farming corporation is evil, but the activists are alternately fools or otherwise shady/compromised in their own way initially. We’re meant to be disgusted by the slaughterhouse stuff, but our sympathies are directed more specifically toward Mija just wanting to get away from all of these people with her friend and against animal cruelty than broadly “against” meat, GMOs or any of the other issues.

    That sounds odd. Is there something it could be compared to?

    It’s actually a lot like those episodes of South Park where an unscrupulous person and/or organization and the over-eager activists opposing them turn out to be just as obnoxious. Except in this version it’s being imagined by an emotionally-mature grown up capable of empathy, so it comes down on the side of personal humanity, and small moral victories rather than “everybody sucks” hipster nihilism.

    So what doesn’t work?

    The individual pieces don’t really come together as a whole, and having half the cast apparently instructed to go for broad caricatures in their performances tends to deflate the tension in scenes that seem to have been aiming for darker. Tilda Swinton isn’t bad here. She’s playing the evil corporate boss lady; a ruthless female corporatist cynically grafting a quasi-progressive face onto the same old exploitative capitalist machinery. But Jake Gyllenhaal is just painful to watch as a kind of evil Steve Irwin – I’m not saying that his human-cartoon of a performance isn’t a bold gamble that the film deserves credit for taking… but it just doesn’t work and has no discernible payoff.

    What works better?

    I still “enjoyed” how messy and chaotic it all is because Bong Joon-ho is seriously committed to this type of filmmaking. And no one else is doing anything in quite the same vein. There are individual moments of it that are near-masterpieces like the initial “pretending it’s a kids movie” stuff with Okja hanging out in the woods and a cheeky needle-drop for a 70s soft-rock staple that’s as well-executed as the similar gags in Guardians of The Galaxy.

    Do you recommend it?

    View the original article:

    Possibly. If you like weird, semi-experiment movies enough to not mind when the experiment doesn’t totally come together, give it a shot.

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