Any movie fan worth their oversized weight in Sour Patch Kids knows director Chan-wook Park. He's the South Korean acclaimed director who gave us Oldboy. I would say it's impossible to enjoy films from a cerebral level and not fully love this 2003 crime masterpiece. (It's currently being remade right now for American audiences; I'm nervous.) After that we sunk our teeth into his horror Thirst and if we really geeked out on Park, we enjoyed the Vengeance series. Stoker is his first foray into an English-speaking film made for American audiences. Judging by the response from people leaving the theater at the screening of it, most Americans aren't ready for him.
Almost every single person that was telling the studio representative their opinion of the film as they walked through the lobby said things like "worst film ever," "I don't know what happened" and "Huh?" I, on the other hand, couldn't have loved it more and am eager to watch it again since it is a film that demands multiple viewing. Not because the plot was complicated but because of the gorgeous way Park presented it to us.
Stoker stars Mia Wasikowka (Alice in Wonderland, Lawless) as a high schooler who's lost her father in a car accident. Her mother, played by Nicole Kidman, lustfully allows her brother-in-law, played by Matthew Goode (Watchmen, A Single Man) to live with them and that's when people start disapearing. Doesn't sound like much of a plot, especially when you consider that it's not a mystery and you know early on in the film that Goode's character is fishy. But it's the poetry of the dialogue and cinematic painting of the direction that make this movie hypnotic.
The film is violent but nothing compared to Park's other films and it's not overly sexual either; but it's still brave and bold in both areas when you consider that they tackle both in disturbing and forbidden ways. The narrative jumps around but stays continual; that might make some lose track of what's happening but it's not challenging; it's deliberate, as is every single thing you see. The costumes, the sets, the props, the stagnation in line delivery...all are choices made by Park to make this entire film feel off kilter.
The runaway star of Stoker is Goode who has created a character that is just as creepy, charming and evil as Norman Bates or Hannibal Lecter. He's so good that it makes me wonder why the studio released this now instead of Oscar season. In fact, Park deserves a nomination as well as does most of his crew. Perhaps they buried the film because they had a feeling people would react to it the way the ones leaving my theater did.
This is not a film for everyone. This was made for those who enter a darkened theater for an expierence that stays with them. The plot is nothing new and it does move at a sluggish pace for most of it, but images and context are burned into your head and make Stoker a film you won't soon forget. It commands you to discuss it with people who've also seen it. I expect blowback from people who go see it based on this review, but those of you who, like me, can appreciate film for every aspect within will thank me for saying how much I think you'll enjoy it. Stoker (Rated R)
Gavin Grade: A