The 39th Annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF) is just several days away, and to kick things off, I had the pleasure of seeing one of the films set to premiere at the event. “OKIE” takes on what I feel is a life lesson for all of us: Don’t tread on those who was there for you on your way up. This passage, however, does take a unique twist in the film.
It all starts when Louie Mulgrin (Scott Michael Foster) returns to his hometown after his father passes away. We then find out that Louie, the main character/focus of the film, is an accomplished writer. He proceeds to run into some old hometown friends, including Travis (Kevin Bigley) and Lainey (Kate Cobb). From there, Louie falls back into hometown habits, but what was interesting was that every time he was called, “Lucky Louie,” he would seem to be showing a psychotic break…or was he?
I do not want to give too much away, but some elements of the film made me think of the former ABC series, “The Whispers.” That series involved a mysterious invisible being called, “Drill,” who communicated with children. During Louie’s breaks from reality, he kept seeing and hearing figures and beings, unable to decipher if they were real. As the film progresses, a lot of questions are answered, including what was happening with Louie and everyone in his old hometown.
Let’s reverse course and go back to the lesson for a moment. It definitely holds true what they say, “Never look down on those on your way up.” Louie became an accomplished writer by looking down on his former friends and where he came from. Watching this play out with Michael Foster showing how he has animosity being back at first, to then showing pangs of guilt, to then realizing how much he really hurt his peers was powerful. The town itself never forgot what was said about them and the town Louie grew up in. It really was a powerful message to see that someone who, in a sense, made it, cast his down on everyone else. Their is a pivotal scene in the film that truly encompasses this, and I really felt their anger, their frustration, and their wanting to even make amends.
I couldn’t feel this way about the film if it weren’t for Michael Foster, Cobb, and Bigley. All three provided so many different ranges of emotions that you could completely understand what each character they played felt. Cobb really stood out in her performance as Lainey, who may be living with a struggle, but she is a strong and independent woman. Also, her chemistry with Michael Foster as Louie shown through the screen. I felt Bigley’s portrayal of Travis is the friend you sort of wished you had. In spite of everything, Travis still wanted to help Louie, and in essence, have his friend back. It’s crazy, isn’t it? As much as one cannot forget, one also remembers.
This film really shows that even though you may have everything, you really don’t have what’s important.
I give this a 4.0/5 rating. Well done!
The 39th SBIFF will be taking place from February 7-17, 2024 at the Arlington Theatre.