A Girl & Her PIG (Film Review: “Okja”)

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A dizzying and eccentric film about mega corporations, global hunger, genetically modified foods and fanatical animal rights terrorists, but at center cut it’s a porcine love story about a Super Pig named Okja and the girl who refuses to part with her.

 

 

 

SnapShot Plot

In Okja, the eagerly awaited Netflix movie that’s concurrently opening in select theatres this weekend, it seems (like the prodigiously edible animal itself) there’s something for everyone in this adventure about a young girl and her giant pig. Maverick South Korean director, Bong Joon Ho (The Host; Snowpiercer) actually debuted the film at the Cannes Film Festival a few months ago (where he was nominated for the Palme d’Or), the first time a Netflix film ever screened at the illustrious international film competition. Which led to a whole controversy about theatrical distribution vs. online streaming. . . but that’s a different pig tale.

The premise of Okja is fairly straightforward. A mega corporation led by a weirdo hyperbolic narcissist (none other than Tilda Swinton) launches a 10-year experiment in which genetically modified piglets are placed with local farmers around the planet, then painstakingly raised to become a new breed of environmentally sound, low carbon footprint, and enticingly tasty pork. One such pig, named Okja (a strange cross between a giant sow and a hippo) has lived an idyllic life high in the hills of South Korea, a kind of Shangri-La paradise where she’s existed in a bucolic paradise with Mija and her grandfather. Pig and girl, having grown up together in virtual isolation from the rest of the world, are closer than sisters, with a symbiotic bond that defies the norm. Young An Seo Hyun plays Mija as a tough little tomboy whose fierce loyalty and devotion to Okja play out beautifully on her expressive face. She literally throws herself headlong into her own rescue mission that ensues after the corporation sends a team to evaluate Okja (led by a bizarre, hysteria prone Jake Gyllenhaal as a has-been celebrity animal expert), who deems her the likely winner of the worldwide Super Pig contest, at which point she’s extracted from her home and headed for a huge publicity stunt in New York City. Enter a strange group of rag-tag animal rights activists led by the peculiar and wonderful Paul Dano and Lily Collins and the film lurches into high gear, with exciting and comical car chases and fight scenes, and all the while little Mija and huge Okja trying desperately to find each other and stay together.

 

 

Parting Shot

Okja may be the first of its kind: a subversive, darkly comic political sci-fi adventure that feels like a summer blockbuster all the same. The movie seems to be winking at the camera throughout, despite the sincerity and truth at the heart of the story, even more so through the ingenious song choices and original music by Jaeil Jung. Say what you will about the tricky tonal ups and downs in the film, but Bong Joon Ho’s vision in Okja feels fresh and exciting and there’s just something about a girl riding a pig that makes you want to scream, “Save the Bacon!”

Okja is in theatres now and presently streaming on Netflix.

 

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YouTube Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AjCebKn4iic

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