Stoker Movie Review
Watching Stoker while drunk is not a good idea. From Chan-wook Park, the twisted mind behind Oldboy and Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Stoker is a dark, disturbing and curious movie that is far from Park's best movies, but still a worthwhile tale for those with the stomach to handle it.
Park's English-language debuts stars Mia Wasikowska, Matthew Goode and Nicole Kidman as an awkward family unit. India Stoker (Wasikowska) has become quiet and depressed following the death of her father, and her relationship with her disconnected mother Evelyn (Kidman) doesn't help. But when the charming uncle she never knew she had (Goode) shows up, India discovers new feelings awakening inside her.
She also discovers that her uncle is a murderer.
Stoker, like Park's other movies, isn't for everyone, though with an American cast and a more straightforward plot, it's his most accessible movie to date. The movie plays like an extra-dark Hitchcock film, which isn't surprising given that screenwriter Wentworth Miller has explicitly stated the movie is influenced by Shadow of a Doubt (according to Wikipedia). With ambitious camerawork and a grim but glossy aesthetic, the movie looks terrific. Goode's charismatic turn is equally terrific.
Unfortunately, Wasikowska and Kidman's characters are so inaccessible for most of the movie it takes until the third act for any of it to matter. Wasikowska's protagonist is marginally likable at best; her intentions are rarely clear, which makes it challenging for the audience to relate to her or even appreciate her motivations. And without that, there were times I just didn't care, even though I was curious as to which way the movie would turn.
I was also drunk when I started watching Stoker, and I had to rewind a couple times to understand what was happening. Oh well.
The third act does make up for some of Stoker's shortcomings. When India has her "awakening," the movie's pulse increases for the better. And the film's final few minutes are deliciously fun. Had the first two thirds of Stoker had the same energy as the final act, the movie would have been significantly better.
Stoker is a good-but-not-great movie, one that most definitely is best watched sober but, more importantly, watched with an appreciation for the dark and disturbing.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.