When India’s father Richard (Dermot Mulroney; Rachel’s colleague Gavin in Friends) dies in a freak accident, her uncle Charlie shows up at the wake after returning from a tour of Europe. He ends up staying with her and her mother Evie until his dark and surprising past starts to unravel to India’s surprise.
India Stoker – Mia Wasikowska (Lawless; The Kids Are All Right; Alice in Wonderland)
Evelyn “Evie” Stoker – Nicole Kidman (Batman Forever; The Hours; Moulin Rouge!)
Charles “Charlie” Stoker – Matthew Goode (Leap Year; Brideshead Revisited; Watchmen)
Directed by Chan-wook Park (the Vengeance trilogy)
Written by Wentworth Miller (debut) & Erin Cressida Wilson (Chloe)
What Did I Think of the Film?
This is very difficult to really say what I thought of the film as I’m not even 50% sure as to what it was actually meant to be! IMDb have it down as drama, mystery and thriller, personally I can’t even decide if that is sufficient to describe it.
Charlie shows up out of the blue at the funeral of his brother and although they had never seen him before Evie invites him to stay with them. He’s a bit of a charmer, he can’t act for peanuts, but he’s admittedly quite charming. Why is this man here, what does he want? Well he wants India, and will stop at nothing to get her. Understandable, she’s played by the gorgeous Mia Wasikowska, who I’m sorry honey but you’re five years younger than me and I’m damn sure that I could pass for 18 a lot more convincingly. Mia is put in here to bring the rest of the cast up to a somewhat watchable standard, she manages to portray India as an emotional wreck and read out the embarrassing script without bursting into fits of hysterics. Kidman on the other hand is going through the motions and seems genuinely confused as to why she has this random person staying in her house, and doesn’t seem to even give a thought to the matter when her housekeeper disappears with no explanation.
The film is rated as an 18 due to one scene which served little purpose except give the director an excuse to have Wasikowska nude to keep the men, who have fallen asleep by this point, even remotely interested. We’d have been looking at a 12A at most if they just cut out the shower scene, which could easily have just been implied given its nature.
If you read my preview for March you will see that it is lumped in with the horrors, and that I was genuinely looking forward to seeing Stoker, but sadly it fell extremely flat. Chan-wook Park is a wonderful director, his Vengeance trilogy is a masterpiece in Korean film-making, but this was definitely a damp squib! He is a master of suspense and creating an atmosphere of true hatred and contempt, whilst making his lead character totally engaging and having the audience on their side regardless of what they do in their pursuit of vengeance. In this however you just couldn’t see what Wasikowska’s motivation was at all, she doesn’t really learn anything about her Uncle Charlie until quite far into the film, and by then it was clear he was a bit of a repugnant character anyway, despite his charming outward persona.
Park wrote the screenplay for Oldboy himself, and I deeply wish that he had done the same here. His two novice writers provided him with little to work with, and the script itself was nothing short of abysmal. Wasikowska is the only one who can walk out of this with their dignity intact, the others should hope that it is soon forgotten as it wasn’t their finest hour. Or maybe it was for Matthew Goode, and we hopefully see him return to tedious comedies like Leap Year in the future where I will never see him again!
Stoker has only been released on a limited basis in the States, and understandably so. It might make its money back in Europe, but it’ll be lucky. To be honest, I’d have thought it was more suited to the Twilight generation than to adults, so maybe cutting out the shower scene and opened it up to a more appropriate audience could have helped it greatly.
Go and see this film if you like Mia Wasikowska and want to see her carry an Oscar winner, if you want to see it for the other reason it isn’t worth 90 minutes of tedium for a bit of side boob. I’m trying to keep this article at PG-13 level, but it is an 18 so you’ll have to forgive me for resorting to the lowest common denominator, but there really isn’t much to say.
Don’t bother if you were expecting a horror, you’ll be sorely disappointed. You’ll sit there wondering when something will happen, it won’t. The little twist you’ll probably have figured out with the look given by Aunt Gwen (double Oscar nominee Jackie Weaver; Silver Linings Playbook) fairly early on.
4/10 – I think that is fair, it wasn’t the worst but it was highly disappointing. It reminded me of the Colin Farrell remake of Fright Night, except without vampires and with rather less charismatic male protagonist.
Alan Redman – @Every1LuvsPingu