Stoker Movie Review
You could argue that this film is all lurid style over substance, but there's actually a lot going on behind the stunningly gorgeous imagery. Korean director Park (Oldboy) beings his lavish visual approach to this Hitchcockian story about a family infiltrated by a predator. Packed with references to iconic movies and books, the film is heightened and deranged, and its intense moodiness gets under the skin.
It centres on 18-year-old India Stoker (Wasikowska), distraught after the death of her beloved father (Mulroney). Without him to soften her, she's also even angrier than usual at her needy mother Evie (Kidman). Then the charming, handsome Uncle Charlie (Goode) turns up at the funeral and moves in to help them grieve. Actually he seems to be trying to seduce Evie, who is flattered by his attention. But the housekeeper (Somerville) and an auntie (Weaver) don't stick around long enough to see what's really going on, and it becomes clear that Charlie actually has his sights set on India.
Both the script and the direction continually echo familiar literary and cinematic icons, from the family's name to the Shakespearean family plot to the prowling interloper (see Robert Mitchum in the 1950s classic The Night of the Hunter). Director Park's camera prowls through the house like a ghost, catching tiny details in every lushly designed scene while finding all kinds of shadings in the performances. Wasikowska is terrific as the sensitive, rather cruel young woman at the centre of the storm, while Kidman steals her scenes with a haunted, conflicted performance. Between them, Goode is almost painfully seductive. And clearly dangerous.
Park's intensely inventive direction brings all of this to the boil again and again with a fiercely artful use of colour, sound and music. The fact that the house is overrun with spiders may feel like one metaphor too many, but they add to the Addams Family wackiness. And it all builds to a crescendo at an outrageously lusty piano duet. In fact, the entire film is awash with primal urges that mix sex and murder in ways that play with our preconceptions. And it's great fun to travel through this blackly amusing but darkly terrifying situation in such fine style with people who might be just a bit messier than we are.