With Netflix already dominating the world of TV production and releasing a tremendous amount of original programming, the streaming service has now set its sights on film. Netflix has begun buying the rights to exciting new film projects, and releasing them exclusively for its subscribers. One of the most highly publicized and somewhat controversial of these films is the sci-fi epic Okja. The film boasts some great visual affects, a captivating story, and an ensemble cast chock full of A-listers and recognizable faces. One of the biggest stars on Okja is Jake Gyllenhaal, who plays the slimy and over the top TV host Johnny Wilcox. Unfortunately, Gyllenhaal has gotten some icy reception regarding his performance in the role, although he doesn't appear to be that upset about it. He said:
I love that. I just really love that when one thing can vacillate between one end of the spectrum and the other. And that was the point of the character. From the very beginning, Bong said to me, 'We have to hate you and you have to be bad.' That was the goal and, well, I'd say we reached it. And so some people really love that and some people just think it's genuinely bad. That's fine.
Well, you just can't please them all. But while opinions about Jake Gyllenhaal's Okja performance vary from person to person, it looks like the naysayers are actually being too swept up with how hatable Johnny Wilcox is. And according to Gyllenhaal's comment to EW, he made him unlikeable and over the top on purpose.
Okja is interesting because it balances almost cartoonish sensibilities with moments of realism and understated performances. Jake Gyllenhaal's characterization of Johnny Wilcox is most certainly anchored in the former, which can be seen from the very first time Johnny shows up in Okja's first act. Gyllenhaal uses a ridiculous character voice for Johnny, sounding like a spoof of a character, rather than one based in reality. This affect is used throughout all of Johnny's scenes through the rest of the film, even the horrifying one that sees the character torture poor Okja. It's a ridiculous voice, which is no doubt why some naysayers have attacked the performance that accompanied it.
But Okja doesn't exactly veer away from the ridiculous. Tilda Swinton's first scene as Lucy Mirando is absolutely bonkers, as she attempts to sell the idea of super pigs to investors. It's colorful, silly, and certainly sets up the entrance of Jake Gyllenhaal's weirdly voiced Johnny. So while there are moments that will break your heart in the Netflix film, it's not exactly based in realism.