Review: Stoker (2013, Chan-wook Park)

1RATING: 4/10

Director: Chan-wook Park
Cast: Mila Wasikowska, Matthew Goode, Nicole Kidman, Phyllis Sommerville, Dermont Malroney, Jackie Weaver
Screenplay: Wentworth Miller & Erin Cressida Wilson

“Stoker” was most definitely the most disappointing movie of 2013 so far. When I heard about this project, I expected a lot. When you watch the trailer for the first time, you get chills over Nicole Kidman’s haunting monologue about hating her children. You expect that acclaimed Korean director Chan-wook Park will bring out something raw in a very talented cast, that will leave you on your toes throughout the suspenseful thriller that they painted out the film to be. Though the right elements were certainly in place, the art-house director misses the entire point of the “Stoker” and it falls short as something flat, boring and a completely misguided piece of cinema that could have been great.

The film brings us into the demented life of the family Stoker. India Stoker’s (Mila Wasikowska) father mysteriously dies from a car crash. Shortly after that, a estranged Uncle Charlie (Matthew Goode) re-enters the lives of India and her unstable mother, Everlyn (Nicole Kidman). As Uncle Charlie continues to live inside the Stoker household, the ladies of the family begin to feel a sexual tension that changes them forever. Uncle Charlie’s dark secrets also cause India to uncover the mask he is wearing, ultimately uncovering a mask that she’s been wearing all along as well.

One of the main problems of “Stoker” is that I feel it was trying way to hard to be something it isn’t. I understand that Park is a very visually driven director, but the film failed to tell the story well through his vision. It is undoubtedly beautiful to look at. Some of the shots are very stunningly photographed, but there was no point in a lot of it. We didn’t need that much visual storytelling to tell the story of India Stoker and her family. No matter how complex her mind is, Park seems to have taken the whole visual identity of the film way too far. It became distracting and it wasted a lot of time in telling us what the story was really about.

Wasikoska does not make a star making performance. It’s unfortunate, because this character would be a dream to play for a teenager girl. It’s not the usual kind of character someone her age would play, or even have the balls to play in general. Wasikoska lacked any proper conviction or even a strong personal connection to this character, that watching her on screen became rather boring in the first twenty minutes. Nicole Kidman’s performance is overpraised with what you see in the trailer. Her role is quite minute and doesn’t have much screen time to be a great performance. Kidman was effortless because she could play this role in her sleep. But that’s the bad thing, Kidman is usually so risqué when it comes to choosing her film roles. Her Evelyn Stoker is completely forgettable. Matthew Good had some weak scenes, but had strong one’s too. It was too bipolar to call either good or bad.

The use of Jackie Weaver and Phyllis Sommerville however depresses me. These two ladies understanding what their characters were, spot on, but their performances were not fully developed. They needed much more screen time then what was allotted for them.

Generally, I wouldn’t say the writing was too bad. Some parts were cringe worthy but as a whole, the screenplay wasn’t terrible. The main problem with “Stoker” really is the way they executed the entire picture. I had hopes for this film to work, so badly. But the truth is, it just didn’t work. It hurts me to say that, but I can’t lie to myself. It’s an ultimate miss for everybody who was on board this picture.

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