By Ohad Amram Staff Writer
From the visionary director of Oldboy, comes Chan-wook Park’s debut English language film, Stoker. The physco-sexually charged thriller begins where it ends and comes full circle. India Stoker played by actress Mia Wasikowska (Alice in Wonderland) is a troubled and reclusive youth for reasons not fully explained. To worsen matters, the death of her father intensifies India’s tepidness and leaves her mother Evelyn, played by academy award nominated Nicole Kidman, in grief and a state of overwhelming shock that consumes Kidman’s role throughout the film. When Uncle Charlie, played by Mathew Goode (Watchmen) mysteriously greets the Stoker residence in time of mourning, the three family members begin a provocative love triangle that is sure to leave audiences manipulated and disturbed.
Those familiar with the previous works of Chan-wook Park know that the South Korean filmmaker is no stranger to darkly twisted revenge stories, consisting of excessive violent imagery and suggestive sequences. Stoker is no different. The film’s luridness provokes in an eerie manner so enticing, the 98 minute feature fluctuates between homage to Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt and moments of grisly humor. Wasikowska delivers a mesmerizing performance, completely different from previous characters she’s portrayed such as Alice or Joni (The Kids Are All Right). Instead, with India, Wasikowska tames her role inciting curiosity within the audience. Furthermore, this incomprehensible character manages to connect with the viewer not by way of likability or even relate ability, but because India is possess’ a motive unclear to the audience.
Kidman, although playing a minor role, executes with sheer brilliance. This faint, but pivotal role is essential to the relationship of India and Uncle Charlie. Goode’s performance as the uncle with mysterious motives ensures that he, although an upcoming actor will achieve breakthrough success. Despite the beauty of the film, courtesy of Park’s visual direction, cinematographer Chung-Hoon Chung, and an already solid cast, with additional performances by academy- award nominated actress Jackie Weaver (Silver Linings Playbook), Stoker lacks in its script; the brainchild of Wentworth Miller, star actor of the series Prison Break. Miller’s debut screenplay is by no means a major disappointment. In fact, for the most part the script manages to keep up with Park’s direction. However, there are specific sequences where the writing didn’t give Park much play for what could or even should have happened.
Upon realizing the still clouded motives of Uncle Charlie, as are the motives of India herself, the film begins to wrap itself and conclude almost abruptly. There is little to no effort in attempting to explain the reasons being why India is the way she has come to be nor is it fully explained just what her and Uncle Charlie had highly anticipated on achieving. That said, viewers should still find themselves satisfied with the films’ conclusion. For his first script effort, it’s safe to say that Miller established himself as a screenwriter with vast potential. This is highly in due part to Park’s direction. The collaborative effort, accompanied by an all-star cast, and crippling visual effects, is sure to leave audiences deeply disturbed yet absorbed.