Directed by Chan-wook Park
Starring: Mia Wasikowski, Nicole Kidman, Matthew Goode, Jacki Weaver
Strange might be the easiest word to use when summing up Chan-wook Park's English-language film debut, Stoker. With a somewhat all-star cast, the film crosses itself between Tarantino blood splatters, Nolan twists, and Daldry or Nichols style.
The central character is India (Alice in Wonderland's Mia Wasikowska), a troubled girl who we never fully get to see (figuratively, not literally). From the beginning of the film she leads us through a dark and sad existence. It's hard to figure if we're supposed to feel for her or despise her strangeness. She's that kid in the back corner of the room in class, with head bowed and mid full of something.
There are moments, however, when we're supposed to support her and her endeavors. Her father dies at the beginning (no spoiler there), which leads to some compassion, but she was already a mysterious girl before the incident even occurred. Nicole Kidman is her unstable mother, the perfect glimpse into a wealthy wife who's disassociated from her family until the tragedy strikes. Her's and India's relationship is cold beforehand and Kidman's Mrs. Stoker tries her hardest to rekindle a relationship that was never there.
The story really picks up when an unknown relative, Uncle Charlie (Match Point's Matthew Goode), shows up after the funeral. His demeanor at once raises suspicion and, especially, when certain supporting characters go missing. Park's display of the characters' different choices throughout the following time is what really plays into the film's more mysterious themes. Nothing is certain, but at the same time, everything is very exact.
Stoker is definitely worthy of multiple viewings. It's one of those films that needs to be seen to catch on to each and every detail (pay attention to the spider....it shows up from time to time and I'm not sure exactly what it means).
The style of the movie is what makes it most appealing. Everything looks crisp and elegant, classy and dated, too. The performances are great, with Wasikowski taking aim at leading actress level work. Kidman is disjointed and troubled as the mother. She seems like the real victim here. Goode is the perfect mix of charm and mystery. Jacki Weaver (recent Oscar nominee for Silver Linings Playbook) steals the few scenes she's in as another distant family member making a visit.
Shot in and around Nashville, Stoker looks great and takes its time to lay out its story slowly, but surely, never feeling too dull or long.
The movie should play to the many fans of the directors listed above, or to fans of Park's most famous work, Oldboy, but something seems a little off. When the movie was over, I was satisfied, but still wanted something more.
Runtime: 98 minutes