Film Review – Stoker (2013)

Stoker

Title – Stoker (2013)

Director – Chan Wook-Park (Oldboy)

Cast – Mia Wasikowska, Matthew Goode, Nicole Kidman, Jacki Weaver, Dermot Mulroney

Plot – Following the death of her father Richard (Mulroney) India Stoker (Wasikowska) is left to live in the family’s country based mansion with her distant mother Evelyn (Kidman) and until recently unknown brother of Richard, Charlie (Goode). As Charlie spends more time around India and Evelyn it’s clear she doesn’t entirely trust her new uncle.

“India. Come meet your Uncle Charlie.”

Review by Eddie on 22/08/2013

For his English language debut director Chan Wook-Park could not have got more prestige and brand name people behind his project. Adapted from Prison Break star Wentworth Miller’s blacklisted script, Stoker also features producers Ridley Scott and brother Tony (in his last producing credit before his untimely death) plus a cast to die for. That Stoker then is such a cold distance inducing mis-fire is quite a wonderment.

Stoker is an impressively shot and constructed film, even if nothing much in the actual picture feels plausible or realistic. A feature of Wook-Park is his ability to imbue his films with a real stark beauty and a feeling that every angle of the film is shot by plan not by chance. From the opening scene of Stoker it feels like we the audience are on for an Oldboy like trip, a trip to a film that has not been seen before. While this aspect is true there is not an ounce of Oldboy’s heart or Sympathy for Lady Vengeance’s memorability. This is a shame as previously mentioned due to the prestige involved in the picture which extends to the cast assembled.

Australian up and comer Mia Wasikowska (pretty much the anti-Alice here) gets the role of lonely and emotionally cold India Stoker. It’s a tough role for Wasikowska but she does an ample job of the Donnie Darko like central figure. Nicole Kidman and Jacki Weaver complete the trio of Australian women in the cast but their respective characters don’t really register a bleep on the radar, that is left to Matthew Goode.

Well known for his role as Ozymandias in Watchmen and so fantastic in Jonathan Teplitzky’s  modern day Australian classic Burning Man (seriously track this film down now) Goode is the stand out reason to watch Stoker. His character of Charlie Stoker is a beguiling turn. Every scene Goode is in you are unsure whether to loathe or like him, a rare feat for an actor to be both charming and unsavoury in equal measure. Charlies menacing present in the film gives insight into just how creepy and perhaps thrilling Stoker could have been if only it allowed you more resonance with the characters.

Regardless of my thoughts on Stoker it will be a film that splits the middle in regards to audience reaction. The viewer will either decide it’s a modern day classic, a somewhat Hitchcockian potboiler or a complete let down on a premise that offered so much and a production lined with an almost undefeatable team at its disposable. I am in the later group, but don’t let that stop you from perhaps discovering your new favourite oddity.

2 leather belts out of 5

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31 responses to “Film Review – Stoker (2013)

    • The opening promised so much and the film just never hit a peak – a real shame! Some more work needed to be done on making the characters more involving for the audience. A strange project indeed.
      Eddie

    • Yes Goode is reason enough to check it out – got a feeling a real career defining movie isn’t to far away from him. I believe originally Miller wrote the script under a different name so to make the script be judged more on it’s own merits. You check out the Worlds End yet mate?
      Eddie

    • It seemed to have all elements in place to be a real classic – I remember first reading about it and it just sounded like the perfect match of material, casting and behind the scenes players.
      Eddie

  1. I enjoyed it a lot more than you, however I am a complete sucker for aesthetically pleasing camera work. The film is more art than story and I know it may seem pretentious but I just love beautiful things. What can I say, I’m a woman . Haha.

    • Agree very much on the beauty of the film it was a major plus for it. I to am a fan of beatifully made and shot films just take a look at my top 30 for proof. It just wasn’t enough to get this one accross the line for me however.
      Eddie

  2. Great review, I was really struck by Kidman’s weird performance, and that this Hollywood attempt for the director was so beneath his other works.

      • You are so right, they rather wrote her in and out but gave her the line. ” I can’t wait to watch life tear you apart” Motherly ways, gentle said by Kidman’s earnest googly eyed delivery.

        Maybe after that the director said, write her out.

  3. Not as great movie as it promises to be in the beginning. Some serious screenplay weakneses simply killed a solid directing…

  4. I thought everything was strategically layered and appropriately gothic. Aside, from the angry teenager guys who seemed like plot devices I thought the script was confident and worthy of the director.

  5. I am on the other side of the spectrum about this film, I loved it. That could be because I have never seen any other Chan Wook-Park films (but now I plan to see a lot more), and I came into the film with no expectations. I wasn’t sure how I would feel about it as it started, but I was really impressed with some of the acting, writing and directing. it’s even my favorite film I’ve seen this year (so far).

    I definitely agree it’s one of those films that some people will love it while others will hate it. There is no in-between. I’m for sure one the people who thinks ” it’s a modern day classic, a somewhat Hitchcockian potboiler,” but I understand all your points against it. Nice review.

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  8. I liked this film a lot: Shadow of a Doubt meets David Lynch meets Female Hamlet. Think of the scene were Wasikowska is sitting in the big chair reading from the book of mourning to her mother. Her disappointment in how easily her mother (Gertrude) got over her father to hook up with Charlie (Claudius) is papable, but understated. This is exactly the kind of emotion buzzing under Hamlet.

    If you’re looking for this to be realistic you’re going to be disappointed. It’s a visual/poetic fantasy of how sexual abuse creates a monster. As she’s abused by her uncle she progressively becomes her uncle. That you don’t see Wasikowska as a threat is precisely what makes her such a scary monster at the end. The cop finds out the hard way.

      • It’s not necessarily cold but inward looking. India is a closed off person. Her anger at being abused by her uncle is expressed in the images that get more and more intense as the film progresses. Think of the scene where she stabs the bully with the pencil then think of the scene were she stabs the cops. One foreshadows the other as her uncle’s evil spirt just swallows her up.

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