Park Chan-wook is a director that I have much admiration for. His stories and worlds are always amazing, thought-provoking and interesting. I was hooked on this director from his Vengeance movies. More specifically, the first film I watched from him, Oldboy. Due for a remake from Spike Lee soon, Oldboy is a film that once you sit down on this roller-coaster you don’t want to get off. You want to keep going again and again and again until someone, physically, forces you get off and let others have a turn. I know the first time I watched Oldboy I fell in love with the film and wanted to watch more from this director. When it was announced that Park Chan-wook would be directing Stoker as his English-language debut, I knew I had to see this film and that I would need to find a way to plant myself in a seat as soon as the movie is released. Boy, I was not disappointed.
A visual mind-fuck of wonderful, Stoker is a movie that will keep you on edge trying to understand where the characters will take you next. As with most films from Park, the imagery is part of the story and the development of the characters. During the film’s opening sequence, India Stoker’s, played by the amazing Mia Wasikowska, monologue sets the tone for the film while you are shown multiple shots of the area around her. At first, it would seem that these shots are out of place and mean nothing, but with all imaginative directors these shots provide hints and clues that mean something much more than they let on.
The sound of the film is stunning. The score and the actual sounds from the film work together to really grab and plunge you into a world that is very dark and unforgiving. We have Clint Mansell (Requiem for a Dream and Black Swan) to thank for the creepy and, at times, unsettling tone. Clint is wonderful choice considering the content of the film. He has proven his skills many times before and really stepped up his game with this score.
Here is a quick glimpse at the story. After India’s (Mia Wasikowska, Lawless and Jane Eyre) father Richard (Dermot Mulroney, The Grey and About Schmidt) dies in an auto accident, her Uncle Charlie (Matthew Goode, Watchman and A Single Man), who she never knew existed, comes to live with her and her unstable mother Evie (Nicole Kidman, Moulin Rouge! and The Others). She comes to suspect this mysterious, charming man has ulterior motives and becomes increasingly infatuated with h im.
Park is known for his dark, atmospheric, and brutal stories and this one does not disappoint. For his screenwriting debut, Wentworth Miller (Prison Break and Resident Evil: Afterlife) does a wonderful job. To say I am surprised would be an understatement. I would have never expected this type or this quality of story from him and I honestly cannot wait to see what else he has up his sleeve. Most people will address the influence from Hitchcock in this film and you can definitely see it. It has been said by Miller that this film is influenced by Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt. India and Charles’ interaction on the stairwell of the house and the train and shower scenes, along with Charlie himself, all bring that Hitchcock feel to this film.
With everything good said about the story there are bad parts to it as well. At times it can seem like the story itself is going a tad bit off the rails. Nothing that would distract you from the film but in this case the where the story lacks it is picked up and carried by its visual quality.
The cast themselves bring lots of emotion and believability to the film. Mia’s performance as India Stoker is nothing short of amazing. There are moments with just her that really makes the character stand out even more throughout the film. Matthew Goode’s performance is what really drives this film along. His character is so unsettling and creepy that just looking into his eyes wigs you out. As most would call him, the charming sociopath is never a more relevant term for him. Everyone else, including Nicole Kidman, pulls off their characters without fault but, as it should, the show really belongs to Mia and Matthew.
What could have been better and wrap-up:
There are like two or three times where it just feels like Park wanted to put more in but couldn’t due to maybe film time constraints or something but that doesn’t hinder your viewing experience one bit. Even though the story could have been a little better or not detract a tad bit, knowing who wrote this film I am more impressed than I am ready to complain. This is a movie I want in my collection and once the film is released I will be the happy owner a Blu-Ray copy.
Wonderful performances from Mia Wasikowska and Matthew Goode, paired with the amazing visual directing of Park Chan-wook and the bold story from Wentworth Miller provide a Hitchcockian experience that everyone should have in theaters before it leaves. Small story hiccups are present but do not take away from the overall experience. If you are able to, go see it. I don’t believe you will be disappointed. 8 creepy uncles out of 10.