Stoker – Movie Review
By Anne Brodie Mar 1, 2013, 14:34 GMT
Mia Wasikowska, Matthew Goode and Nicole Kidman star in a slow burn of a psychological thriller that blends sex, murder, fantasy and madness. It comes from the fertile imagination of English actor Wentworth Miller, best known as a muscle bound tough guy in roles like the American series Prison Break and it’s pretty impressive.
Miller’s a masterful, contemplative study of India a young girl (Wasikowska) growing up in a gloomy house that reeks of insanity in the days following the death of her father. It’s richly detailed and takes its time unfolding in that humid, hot way of Gothic potboilers. It builds to a nerve jangling crescendo and gets under the skin in ways horror films can, even though it’s just a slice of life for the characters.
India and her mother Evelyn (Kidman) attend the funeral.
Evelyn’s in an alcohol induced stupor and India is barely functioning. A man appears standing far away from the mourners, just long enough for young India to notice him. Later that day he shows up at the house claiming to be India’s Uncle Charlie (Goode), brother to her dead father. He awakens India’s mother from her grief rather easily and they jump into a sexual relationship. India rebels in disgust and acts out, nursing a wary hatred for Charlie.
India is bullied by a group of schoolboys and is further mortified when at the end of the day Charlie shows up to take her home. She chooses to get on the bus instead even as her schoolmates scream over handsome Charlie and his sports car.
India senses that Charlie is trouble but can’t articulate why he poses a threat to her. Evelyn knows how India feels but in her sexually starved carelessness, invites him to move in. Charlie has no plans to leave. India refuses to acknowledge him as he redoubles his efforts to win her over until one day he joins her at the piano and they play together and something is unlocked.
Bad stuff lies ahead, torture, murders, betrayal and madness, but why not ... it’s a southern Gothic nightmare. It’s supposed to be set in Connecticut but the sentiments are archetypically cornpone. You can almost feel the rising vapors as India discovers her sexuality and Evelyn and Charlie revel in theirs.
Our suspicions about Charlie grow but he doesn’t do anything overtly wrong at first. Goode manages to convey threat even imminent danger without setting off alarms. The inimitable Jacki Weaver arrives on the scene, a relative come to warn the family about Charlie. India’s thrilled for a sane visitor but Evelyn and Charlie send her packing.
Stoker’s a nutty film, and a dream of a film. It has it both ways as an exercise in camp splendor, nightmares and horrific realities. Kidman is gold in the role of a drunken slut who chooses her new man over her daughter’s welfare. And Wasikowska’s bare knuckles adolescent desperation is palpable.
Goode as the handsome devil, is going to get away with anything. All that charm has paved him an easy road where morals don’t exist and Goode’s having a whale of a time posing, preening and pretending.
It is unusually engrossing with nary a breathing break. As bad things happen, it feels tighter and tighter. Stoker’s a guilty pleasure, a sensual slow walk to hell.
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Written by Wentworth Miller
Directed by Park Chan-wook
Opens: March 1
Runtime: 98 minutes