Film Review: STOKER

Directed by Chan-wook Park
Written by Wentworth Miller
Starring; Mia Wasikowska, Matthew Goode, Nicole Kidman, Dermot Mulroney

As a fan of OLDBOY and SYMPATHY FOR MR. VENGEANCE as well as several other films by Chan-wook Park, I was prepared to enjoy this film. I looked forward to seeing his first English language film, to see what he did with an American setting and English-speaking actors. Although this film does not equal the wonders of OLDBOY, it was never dull and was often quite wonderful.

This is a gothic melodrama, the equivalent to the images a name like Stoker conjures up. And long before the evil Uncle Charlie (Goode) comes on the scene, the two women, India and her mother (Wasikowska and Kidman) have persuaded us that things are not right. Their father/ husband has died suddenly. They are both undone by this event or perhaps they have always been undone. (That would be my guess). Uncle Charlie comes to town to provide succor (or perhaps to rob them) and seduces each in a different way. Things always off-kilter in this house, go further awry. That’s all you really need to know.

I’ve never been a fan of Hitchcock’s SHADOW OF A DOUBT. Theresa Wright seemed no match for Joseph Cotton as the Uncle Charlie of that film. Oh, she may have outsmarted him in the end, but she was too much the small-town girl to handle a guy like Uncle Charlie when push comes to shove. In STOKER, I think Park’s Uncle Charlie meets his equal in the person of his niece, India. She has enough experience with demons like his to handle him. And her father has provided her with a means to that end.

To enjoy STOKER. I think you have to be willing to be seduced by over-the-top atmosphere, melodrama, and symbolism. If you’re looking for a film that deals seriously with any issue at all, you won’t find it here. But if you want to luxuriate in a Tennessee Williams sort of house in a David Lynch sort of town with a bunch of people Shirley Jackson might have written, you are welcome here.

Patti Abbott