Movie Review #635
Studio: Fox Searchlight Pictures – Indian Paintbrush – Scott Free
Distributor: Fox Searchlight Pictures
Country: USA – UK
Spoken Languages: English
Directed by Park Chan-wook. Produced by Ridley Scott, Tony Scott, and Michael Costigan. Written by Wentworth Miller.
Rated R by the MPAA, for disturbing violent and sexual content. Runs 1 hour, 33 minutes. Premiered at Sundance Film Festival on January 20, 2013, and at Glasgow Film Festival on February 16, 2013. Limited release in the USA on March 1, 2013. Wide release in the UK on March 1, 2013.
Starring Mia Wasikowska, Matthew Goode, Nicole Kidman, Dermot Mulroney, and Jacki Weaver. Also starring Lucas Till, Alden Ehrenreich, Phyllis Somerville, Ralph Brown, and Judith Godrèche.
After seeing him conduct a vengeful massacre like “Oldboy”, I would’ve expected anything but for Park Chan-wook to direct a deadpan comedy. But he did, and that’s where “Stoker” comes in. This is strange, in case that’s not obvious from Dracula meets “Shadow of a Doubt”. This movie is bloody. It’s incestuous. It begins by taking home two awards: one for sunniest funeral scene, the other for most careless people in a funeral scene. It’s demented enough that I’m scared of how it’ll fare in my memory.
And yet it is, quite possibly, the best movie of 2013.
I’m beginning to see Park Chan-wook as a master of emotionally distraught characters. Just looking at this and his decade-old boy (SEE FOOTNOTE), he’s given us two great antiheroes, and I’d assume he’s done so on other occasions, as well; I’d like to see so for myself. He’s also a master of technical artistry. How one can describe the title sequence in words, or how one scene wipes into the next, I don’t exactly know. He often uses sound mixing to put us in the character’s head. Let’s hear that egg cracking, but make it sound like a hailstorm. When she opens the freezer up, make sure we can hear the ice that’s been keeping it shut for so long. Let the laundry machine overtake this scene. Oh and when she takes that slow, reluctant sip of wine, make sure we can hear her breathing echo around the wineglass.
Mia Wasikowska plays the lead female, India Stoker. She’s a very curious character. I’ve seen her in two complex roles thus far. The first being in 2011′s “Jane Eyre”, where she played the titular Brontë character. The one thing she doesn’t have in “Stoker” is the advantage of a familiar literary character…and she nails the performance in all its insinuations. But let’s narrow her down just a little, to avoid spoilers. Her father, Richard Stoker, died recently. Maybe it was as soon as she got home from the funeral that her mother started going out with her uncle. Weird, right? It gets weirder. Just look at the mother, and imagine the father. Nicole Kidman’s performance as Mrs. Evelyn Stoker flourishes with deadpan humor. She’s always staring straight at someone, or something, as if she’s trying to analyze its soul with her very pupils. It’s anything but her usual character, and when she does smile, once or twice, the effect is even more morbid than the straight face.
You just try keeping a straight face watching her delivery. Her final soliloquy had me grinning from ear to ear. And those moments won’t be lost in time. Like “Tears in Rain”.
FOOTNOTE: It’s easier than saying “Oldboy, which is now ten years old.”