Tuesday, March 19

REVIEW: Stoker

Directed by Chan-wook Park
2013 Drama Thriller
1 hour 39 minutes
From Fox Searchlight Pictures

Mia Wasikowska
Matthew Goode
Nicole Kidman
Dermot Mulroney
Alden Ehrenreich
Jacki Weaver
Phyllis Somerville

It says in the poster to not disturb the family.  Too late.  You already know they are disturbed.  You can just tell.  The Stoker family has some deep-seated issues.  One moment you think the girl is the most disturbed, then maybe her mother, then maybe the uncle she never knew she had.  You'll go back and forth on who's the wackiest and where this is going to lead and by the end, it's perfectly clear who gets tops honors.  But my lips are sealed.  Sorta.

They live in a lovely home in the woods (no, no, they are not going to be slaughtered one by one at the stroke of midnight) and the father has not only just died mysteriously but his brother has just shown up and is spending some time with the bereaved.  The daughter, nearly mute, feels the loss painfully and is also the most perplexed about this uncle. Peripheral characters who attempt to come to the aid of one or another family member soon disappear.

The ending did surprise me some.  But before we got to it, I did find a bit to be critical of.  While the film had a nice look, it was stylized and by the fadeout, I found it too stylized.  To me when a film goes that way, it is often a substitute for better story values and I think that is the case here.  It has a definite atmospheric quality to it and while it's impressive at various times, it, too, seems overdone.  There is a lot of staring at one another which I find pretty implausible.  If I were in a family with these shenanigans going all on around me, I sureinthehell would yell out what is bloody going on around here?  But no.  Staring will suffice.  Maybe it was done with the intention to unnerve me somehow but it only served to bore me.

Wasikowska is top-billed... it is her film.  In some of her films, she seems so lacklustre to me, wan and unmotivated.  But she gets the prize here.  If she is the centerpiece of the proceedings, she needs to do more.

I am a big Matthew Goode fan.  That face pleases me, the smile is so wholesome and beguiling.  And it is for that reason that when his character is a dark one, he always surprises and I like that in an actor.

Kidman is not really given a lot to do but she makes the most of what there is.  When she was married to what's-his-name, I didn't care for her or much of her work.  But as she has gotten older and wiser and done such a variety of work, I like her very much.

South Korean director Park is known as Mr. Vengeance in Asia and the films he makes usually have a great deal to do with violence with a special emphasis on fear and pain.  Much of that can be seen here, his first English language film.

Stoker is intended to be a psychological thriller.  It is not filled with gore or sex or nudity or profanity.  And this is precisely why it is an art house film rather than one to play too wider audiences.  The ingredients it doesn't have are precisely those which attract the large crowds, especially the kids.  Psychological thrillers are usually slowly paced and this one certainly is.  I was attracted by the actors in it and for that reason I liked it.  I suspect others will feel differently.

Review of Olympus Has Fallen

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