For 10 idyllic years, young Mija (An Seo Hyun) has been caretaker and constant companion to Okja-a massive animal and an even bigger friend-at her home in the mountains of South Korea. But that changes when a family-owned multinational conglomerate Mirando Corporation takes Okja for themselves and transports her to New York, where image obsessed and self-promoting CEO Lucy Mirando (Tilda Swinton) has big plans for Mija's dearest friend. With no particular plan but single-minded in intent, Mija sets out on a rescue mission, but her already daunting journey quickly becomes more complicated when she crosses paths with disparate groups of capitalists, demonstrators and consumers, each battling to control the fate of Okja...while all Mija wants to do is bring her friend home. Deftly blending genres, humor, poignancy and drama, Bong Joon Ho (Snowpiercer, The Host) begins with the gentlest of premises-the bond between man and animal-and ultimately creates a distinct and layered vision of the...Written by
The fruit that Mija feeds Okja is persimmons. See more »
There is a mistranslation on the English subtitles when K played by Steven Yeun is about to jump out of the truck. According to the subtitles, his parting words to Mija are "Mija! Try learning English. It opens new doors!" What he actually says is "Mija! Also, my name is Koo Soon-bum." It's a flagrant mistranslation - but one that would only be apparent to those who can speak both languages. Moreover, the mistranslation is a clever subversion of the supremacy of English. The subtitle is a command to learn English - something that every Korean student has heard throughout her life - but to actually understand what K is saying, you would have to know Korean. There's an added layer of comedy to the name itself, which has the whiff of the old country about it: "Koo Soon-bum" is sort of like a white man saying his name is "Buford Attaway." As Yeun said in an interview, "When he says 'Koo Soon-bum,' it's funny to you if you're Korean, because that's a dumb name. There's no way to translate that. That's like, the comedy drop-off, the chasm between countries." See more »
[to camera while descending industrial stairway]
Oh, thank you! What a terrific crowd! Welcome to my inauguration! I'm Lucy, Lucy Mirando, of the Mirando Corporation. Welcome to my grandfather's old factory. Now, I know, we all know, that Grandpa Mirando was a terrible man.
We know of the atrocities he committed in this space. We know these walls are stained with the blood of fine working men. But today, I reclaim this space, to tell you a beautiful story. Now the ...
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Wildly Inconsistent but Bold and Often Very Enjoyable
Bong Joon Ho's follow-up to future cult classic Snowpiercer is part sentimental childhood adventure, part hardcore animal activism movie and part surreal R-rated dark comedy. Without giving anything away, the first two parts work much better than the third, frustratingly so.
Seo-Hyun Ahn is wonderful as Mija, Okja's loving companion, and the first 30 minutes or so that focuses on their relationship is the strongest material here.
Unfortunately, the other performances are all over the map. Jake Gyllenhaal gives a career-worst performance as a "wacky", perpetually drunk, borderline psychotic television host, and he alternates between channeling Jerry Lewis at a 10 and what I can only assume is one of the prisoners from Silence of the Lambs. It absolutely doesn't work at all, comedically or narratively, and he is the very, very, very low point of an otherwise enjoyable ride, completely at odds with the rest of the film. How the studio, filmmakers or actors watched this excruciatingly cartoonish performance and found it remotely acceptable is staggering, but it's a Razzie slam-dunk if I've ever seen one and it severely detracts from the overall experience.
The surreal, eccentric subplot about Tilda Swinton's character and her corporate empire fares slightly better in that it is never cringe-inducing, but still feels at odds with the tone of the Okja-Mija relationship, which is perhaps the only part of the story played relatively straight, for the better.
The film doesn't dance around its unsubtle messages about animals, factory farming and GM foods, to say the least. Some might be taken aback or even appalled at the unapologetic hardcore animal liberation themes, which include graphic, uncomfortable scenes of sadistic animal abuse, and even holocaust allusions. Holocaust allusions in a kid's adventure movie, you say? Welcome to Okja. Did I mention the film is rated R?
Still, if you can be forgiving of some truly curious decisions about tone and plotting, you'll probably enjoy Okja - the best parts of the film, like the heartfelt Okja-Mija relationship and a handful of riveting, beautifully put together action sequences, are so good that it makes the less successful choices more palatable. As of now I'd give it a 6.5 or so, but editing out Jake Gyllenhaal's atrocious performance would automatically bump it up a whole number.
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