Stoker is sort of a female Hamlet. After
her father died under mysterious circumstances, her mother is all eyes for her
uncle. However, Uncle Charlie is more
interested in replacing his brother as a pseudo-father-figure for India in Park
Chan-wook’s first English language film, Stoker
screens during the 2013 Sundance Film Festival.
Stoker and her father were always very close, having bonded during their
regular hunting trips. Yes, she is a
gothic protagonist who can handle a firearm.
Her relationship with her mother is another matter. Evelyn “Evie” Stoker is a woman so chilly and
severe, by law she has to be played by Nicole Kidman. When Uncle Charlie shows up after the
funeral, the widow turns to him for “comfort.”
India is not impressed, rebuffing all her Uncle’s overtures of
friendship. Kindly Aunt Gin appears
quite alarmed by Charlie Stoker’s presence, but she disappears before she can
explain why. People seem to do that
around the Stoker family.
Stoker is exactly the
sort of film Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows should
have been, but totally wasn’t. Park’s
mastery of mood is reflected in every scene, particularly some visually
arresting transitions. While the lurid
nature of the material often approaches camp, Park emphasizes the repressed
brooding and eerie atmospherics. It also
helps that Wentworth Miller’s screenplay tells a fully fledged story that
mostly comes together down the stretch (rather than stringing together a series
would be spoilery to explain why, but it is safe to say audiences have never
seen Mia Wasikowska like this before.
Yet, in a way, India Stoker is something of a psychologically troubled cousin
to Jane Eyre. Matthew Goode holds up his
end, bringing all kinds of creepiness as Uncle Charlie. Although Kidman is often relegated to the
sidelines, she perfectly delivers some scathing Mommie Dearest lines in the pivotal third act confrontation that
audience members were quoting immediately after the screening.
Park’s accomplished hands have transformed a
V.C. Andrews-ish yarn into an unusually stylish dark fable. The Oldboy
auteur’s admirers should be well pleased with his English debut and it also
ought to earn Wasikowska a whole new level of fanboy appreciation. Elegantly sinister, Stoker is recommended for sophisticated genre patrons when it
screens again today (1/25) in Salt Lake and tomorrow (1/26) in Ogden as a
Premiere selection of this year’s Sundance Film Festival.
Labels: Nicole Kidman, Park Chan-wook, Sundance '13