Seen: At the Kendall Square Landmark Cinema in Cambridge.
This has been among my most-anticipated for 2013, because, well, I love Park Chan-wook (OBVIOUSLY) and I was curious to see how he’d work within the Hollywood system for the first time. Stoker is a grave, sensationalist tale about a quiet high school genius named India (Mia Wasikowska), who must tread carefully after her father passes away. Following the funeral, her estranged Uncle Charlie (Matthew Goode) immediately moves in with them and begins seducing her more-than-willing mother (Nicole Kidman). India observes her uncle cautiously, and realizes there is more to him than he has revealed. She becomes equally distrustful of and infatuated with him, and it becomes clear the two are connected by something more than just blood.
Gradually paced and masterfully shot, Stoker proves that Park’s talents certainly translate outside of South Korea. Every frame is thoughtful and precise, every detail is assuredly placed to intrigue or unsettle. The story is interesting and a bit pulpy, which I loved, riddled with incestuous and homicidal threads and unabashedly incorporating consistent sexual undertones. I could generally see where the plot was going, so the mystery elements were slightly weak, but for me it wasn’t about the mystery, it was more about the characters’ complex relationships that shifted and transformed as the film progressed. While I understood how most of the events would play out, I wasn’t sure how certain characters would react to one another, and that’s how the film remained so compelling throughout.
The performances are so, so good, especially Goode and Wasikowska. Especially Wasikowska, my god. Goode eases his way through creepy as fuck facial expressions heightened by intense stares, but she just NAILS it. I like her in general (remember how much I adored Jane Eyre?) but I’ve never seen her in a role so dark and sensuous, and it really worked. She is tense, continually poised to strike, and indeed there are a few times when she does. And it’s amazing. Her character blends sympathy and sociopathy and Wasikowska’s hardened looks and body language convey everything we need to know, while also effectively capturing the hormonal confusion and sexual fascination that is often central to teenage development. And I loved her style! (Kidman is good, too, but her role isn’t that big so I don’t have much to say about it.)
Park Chan-wook: I LOVE YOU. LET’S HANG OUT. I PROMISE I WON’T MAKE IT WEIRD. THEN AGAIN MAYBE YOU LIKE WEIRD.
Pair This Movie With: The whole “evil uncle hanging out with his niece” thing had me thinking about Shadow of a Doubt, which I think would pair well.