By Gary Murray

Starring Nichole Kidman, Matthew Goode and Mia Wasikowska

Written by Wentworth Miller

Directed by Park Chan-wook

Running time 98 min

MPAA Rating R

Selig Film Rating Matinee


Park Chan-wook is the brilliant director who made what has been called The Vengeance Trilogy of Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Old Boy and Sympathy for Lady Vengeance.  He also made the stunning vampire flick Thirst.  His latest and first in English is Stoker.

The story of Stoker is of a dysfunctional family to a stunning degree.   The film starts In Medias Res with the audience seeing the ending of our little warped work, then going back to the beginning. 

The Stoker family is going through a crisis.  Mom Evelyn (Nicole Kidman) and daughter India (Mia Wasikowska) have to confront each other as they have to confront the loss of the husband/father Richard.  It seems as if he has died from an auto accident.  India is on the verge of becoming 18 and struggles with life in high school.

Thrown into the mix is the sudden appearance of Uncle Charlie (Matthew Goode) a mysterious figure that everyone is shocked and amazed to see again.  There are whispers and nodding glances whenever someone sees him. 

Very soon, Uncle Charlie becomes a part of the Stoker household.  He shows an attraction to Mom and daughter alike.  The two women who have never been that close are becoming rivals of affection for Charlie.  The more this trio becomes close, the more that things are not as they seem.  The realization of who Uncle Charlie is and the blossoming of India into a woman are the twin prongs that hurl Stoker to it’s over the top climax.

This is another shining performance by Nichole Kidman who proves that she take these smaller roles and just shine.  It is hard to believe that she is soon to be taking on young grandmother roles.  She is vain and pathetic while finding a tiny bit of sympathy in a role that should receive no sympathy.

Matthew Goode is creepy and seductive at the same time, a very hard to pull off trick.  From the first moment he is seen on camera, something is just not right with the man.  His Uncle Charlie is a textbook definition of a crazed character and Mr. Goode does a stand-out job with reading the role.

By far the biggest praised have to go to young Mia Wasikowska as India.  She is a young girl turning into a young woman; lost. frightened and captivating.  She knows that something is truly wrong with her uncle but she cannot figure out what it is.  Eventually this curiosity becomes an infatuation with deadly results. 

The highlight of the film is where all three are confronting each other at dinner in the stately old home.  There are tensions flying while the three jockey to find out exactly what the motives of the other will turn out to be.  It is the only element in the film that works on different levels.

The problem with Stoker is that there is not much of a film here.  The idea is interesting but feels as if we have seen it before.  Park Chan-wook captures the idea of Southern Gothic horror without giving the tensions the genre deserves.  It almost feels like he is going through the motions rather than blazing a different path.  The exercise become a bit tedious where it should be tension filled.

Stoker is a fascinating film and would be highly praised by another director.  One expects more from Park Chan-wook and this is one of his weaker flicks.  Watching Stoker just wants me to watch Old Boy and Thirst again. 



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