We first meet the Stoker family as they are attending the funeral of Richard Stoker. We are told that he died in a car accident and he left behind his wife played by Nicole Kidman and his daughter, India, played by Mia Wasikowska. During the funeral and subsequent gathering we are introduced to Richard’s brother who no one seemed to remember existed and yet they willingly invite him to stay at their home. From here the movie takes us on a few twists and turns as secrets are revealed and a family is torn apart.
The story itself is just a run of the mill thriller that put on its art pants in the morning. I figured out how it was going to end twenty minutes into it. Where it does differ from the genre is its portrayal of India and the uncle. That sub-plot, if fleshed out properly could have helped this rise above similar movies, instead too much emphasis is placed on other pointless portions and other characters. You might be surprised to know that Stoker was written by Wentworth Miller from Prison Break and Resident Evil fame. The dialogue is solid, but the story is, not so much filled with holes, but lacking any clear vision. Some of the characters motives are thin at best or just downright don’t make sense. All the elements for a great movie are there, they just aren’t used properly.
The visuals in this movie are amazing, I am a fan of Oldboy and Stoker definitely builds on Chan-wook Park’s visual style. This is not a dull world. The bright colors that the world is painted in are a stark contrast to the overall mood of the movie. For some strange reason sounds are amplified to heighten the reality of this world and it just doesn’t work. Panic Room is a great example of exemplary sound design. Every sound is heightened and it feels unique and organic. Stoker’s sound design is just recycled sound effects. I know editing sound on a movie is tough work, but it felt like these guys just said, here listen to this egg cracking. Unfortunately, stunning visuals and a pointless overemphasis on sound are not enough to overcome the overall boring story.
The director definitely filled this movie with top-notch talent, and it shows. Mia Wasikowska portrays the troubled daughter with a secret very gracefully with just a touch of awkwardness and sexual tension. Nicole Kidman plays the mother to Wasikowska’s India and brings to it a seething feeling of abandonment. The real stand out star, however, is Matthew Goode who plays Richard’s brother, Charlie. He’s been around for a while, but hasn’t been in much, you might remember him as Ozymandias in Watchmen. He essentially has to play two different characters and he does it with gusto.
Stoker is what you would get if Tim Burton took narcotics and decided to make a boring thriller. Visually the movie is amazing. All the colors pop and the director’s vision is something to behold, but the story is lacking and poorly executed. The acting is this movies saving grace, but it’s not enough to overcome a movie that is too art for its own good.
3 out of 11
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About the Movie
Synopsis: After India’s father dies, her Uncle Charlie, who she never knew existed, comes to live with her and her unstable mother. She comes to suspect this mysterious, charming man has ulterior motives and becomes increasingly infatuated with him.
Director: Chan-wook Park
Writer: Wentworth Miller
Stars: Mia Wasikowska, Nicole Kidman, Matthew Goode, Dermot Mulroney
Runtime: 98 Min