Memo To The Curious Moviegoer:
Everything is subjective. Except the previous statement, which is unshakably correct. Absolute Truth in religion – for those who believe in it – that too. Everything else – totally up for grabs.
I “get” that movie reviews necessarily reflect the subjective opinion of the reviewer. But when reviewers’ opinions depart dramatically from my own… you know, when they ran into my car at the Lexus dealership, despite conclusive videoed evidence to the contrary, the dealership’s manager adamantly denied his company’s responsibility for the accident. When I continued pressing him about it, he asked, “Why do you need me to admit it was our fault? To which I explanatorily replied,
“So I will not feel I am entirely crazy.”
It’s the same with reviews. I see something; the reviewers see something. It’s not we disagree somewhat, it’s like we saw two entirely different movies. It is then I require a correcting “Reality Check.”
Am I out my senses, or what?
Coast to coast, critics are raving about Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-ho's new feature release, Okja.
New York Times reviewer A.O. Scott – “… wonderful new film.”
L.A. Times Justin Chang – “…thrilling…”
E. Raymond Pomerantz?
“I don't like it.”
You see how we’re not close?
Yes, there’s this adorable CGI animal that’s supposed to be a giant pig but looks more like a soft hippopotamus. Who says you mutate a pig and it turns suddenly gray and its traditional “pig-nose” becomes puppyish? That’s not believable, is it? Still, it is cute and you want one.
The visual interplay between Okja, the genetically modified porker and the teenerish Mija – though I usually dislike CGI because it looks phonily stupid – is breathtaking, because this time, it doesn’t.
The two physically roll around together – an actual person and a computerized drawing – and it looks like they’re both real. (Assuming a real pig can be “supersized” and turn gray.)
I enjoyed the gamboling “girl-pig” part a lot. But that’s all I enjoyed.
Here’s what you get, plot-wise.
An idyllic opening interlude between a serious-minded young girl and her unusual-looking pet pig in a setting as perfectly pastoral as a painting. The mercenary mega-company who temporarily outsourced him – I think Okja’s a “him” – to Mija’s caretaking grandfather return to retrieve the pig with plans of submitting him to some nefarious undertakings – a genetically-modified pig beauty contest, some obligatory mating and then, inevitable slaughter.
The resolute Mija bravely pursues the repossessed pig all the way to New York, bent on returning Okja to the perfectly pastoral painting; I mean, to what she and Okja collectively call “home.” Which is inherently the same thing. I just liked writing it that way.
The film begins naturalistically. Then the diabolical pig-murderers arrive, and it’s “Crazy Town.”
What comprises the the rest of the movie is a “No Quarter” cell of “Animal Rights” activists battling genocidal pig slaughterers. And nobody’s really that nice. Even the “Animal Rights” activists kick people when they’re down. (And not at all metaphorically.)
It’s like two movies in one – a sweetly sensitive “girl-and-her-pig” movie – reminiscent of a kid-and-their-dolphin movie or an Eskimo-kid-and-their-sled-dog movie – and a live-action “Splatter” cartoon. Leaving you questioning whether the mutated pig is drawn and the people are real, or is it the other way around? From a behavioral standpoint, the CGI pig is more inherently credible. Do you see how unsatisfying that is?
The reviewers? They loved it.
“A miracle of imagination and technique.”
“A marvel of contemporary technical wizardry and old-fashioned cuddliness.”
Me? “No sale.” And nowhere nearing “a close call.” Good thing I’m not a film critic.
“A Narrative Train Wreck!”
Not good for the posters.
We walked up there (to the movie theater) because of the hyper-positive review, discovering to our leg-weary chagrin that our selected “show time” was sold out. Who says newspaper film critics have no palpable effect? How else would you explain the surprise sellout? Barring some unheralded coterie of Bong Joon-ho devotees living in Santa Monica.
We walk back the following evening – having ordered tickets on-line, in case the groundswell of Okja-mania had not entirely subsided. We get in…
… and very quickly, we sincerely wish that we hadn’t.
My own personal opinion:
Do not see Okja.
Unless you’re a sucker for questionably conceived cyber-pigs.
Or unless the reviewers are right, and my concurring filmgoing companion and myself are totally bonkers.
You see how “subjective” works?
Personally truthful. But, practically,
No help at all.