Sunday, March 3, 2013


 1.5 / 5 

Stoker is an awful movie, barely redeemed by the visual sensibilities of its director, Park Chan-wook, whose South Korean movies have been widely praised.  Stoker does indeed often look good but generally makes little sense.

The script by actor Wentworth Miller has clearly been influenced by Hitchcock's Shadow of a Doubt, presenting a mysterious stranger named Uncle Charlie (Matthew Goode), who shows up days after the death of Richard Stoker, which has left his waxen, sexually starved wife (Nicole Kidman) and creepy, sexually inexperienced daughter India (Mia Wasikowska) alone in an antebellum mansion.

India makes Wednesday Addams look chipper as she skulks and sulks and spies on her mother, who more or less jumps Uncle Charlie's bones at the funeral.  But not everyone trusts Uncle Charlie, especially the older women like Auntie Gin (a completely wasted Jacki Weaver, offering no signs of the talent that got her two Oscar nominations), who suspiciously disappear after raising their doubts.

But the movie isn't a straightforward mystery, nor is it a sexual coming-of-age story, nor is it a gothic melodrama, nor is it a perverse family drama -- it's all of those things but, more to the point, none of them; the crazy-quilt script careens from one tone to another, but never gets any of them right.

The actors are a big part of the problem.  While it's true that the script gives them absolutely nothing to work with, they barely try.  Wasikowska lets her pout do most of the heavy lifting, Goode just smiles like a handsome idiot, and Kidman phones it in from a different place entirely.  At least on screen, she possesses not an ounce of maternal instinct, trying so hard to ooze sensuality she comes across as a desperately sex-starved version of Mrs. Wiggins from the old Carol Burnett Show but without the laughs -- without much emotion of any sort, actually.

The first two thirds of Stoker literally make no sense; the visuals don't match the sparse dialogue, the story feels like an afterthought, with minor characters turning up dead and others introduced and then forgotten within moments.  The main characters, meanwhile, meander from one scene to the next with an irritating (not unsettling) disconnectedness.  Most of the time, they look drugged into a stupor.

Finally, things begin to get vaguely interesting in the final 30 minutes, but only momentarily before committing the grand mistake of trying to explain everything -- with the exception of minor annoyances like character motivation and plot cohesion.

Stoker doesn't have the nerve to be a sexual fantasia along the lines of Reflections in a Golden Eye or the humor to go wildly off the rails into the territory of high camp.  Though it references other very good films, like the aforementioned Shadow of a Doubt, not to mention Hitchcock's Psycho and the Grand Guignol tradition, it's not even close to being in the same league.  Without game actors, it can't even make it into the category of being so bad it's good -- Stoker is just plain bad.

Viewed March 2, 2013 -- Arclight Hollywood


No comments:

Post a Comment