Hollywood move, more money, less art. It’s where you learn to kill or die.
My thirst for more of Chan-wook Park‘s story and directorial skills, had me anticipatory to view STOKER. Despite my initial reaction to trailers depicting it’s tone and subject matter which seemed to clearly post a sign to psychopathic love triangle in primarily one location. Not a road I wanted to travel down, it looked slow, tedious and though Nicole Kidman once charmed my heart she now signals movies to avoid.
STOKER is a slow motion train wreak. All the trees are lined up and you drive down the pickled scene after picking up your psychotic brother who killed your other brother as a child and think somehow he isn’t going to kill you mid sentence.
Every turn in the script is called out like a conductor on an old train to a town you don’t want to visit again. “The housekeeper is going to die now! All aboard!” After a languishing ride of curiously English scenery and suave camera moves, the obvious finally arrives.
Yes, Charlie (Matthew Goode) is a killer. He is scared crazy but never scary. He’s certainly adequately aloof and his hair combs oh so neatly, but is it enough star power to carry the movie and deliver the much need under current of potential violence or horror? Yes, India (Mia) is a sadistic murderer coming into her prime, sideways eyes and glaring accusations “Why are you alive?” After learning to kill animals so lovingly by her father, it’s an easy jump to learning to kill humans by her uncle. It’s obviously in the family genes.
She isn’t so much attracted to Goode as she is to him killing anyone who happens to express an opinion. Charlie is so crazy that he has no concern of being caught, he simple kills for the fact that killing is reactionary and it is his best form of expression, other than fixating on India, his brother’s daughter, whom he sends shoes and letters for 18 years. Until he is leaves the mental ward, so his killing, much like his imaginary travels around the world can continue.
All the smart editing, convoluted time splitting and clever camera shots fail to save the mundane plodding script, STOKER looks contrived, over staged, breaking any interest in the storyline.
The characters fail to amuse or be believable and Kidman as Mia’s mother is completely shaky unreal and tensely forgettable. Kidman’s knitted brow and looney eyes trick is wearing very thin, it’s her go to reaction shot for almost every scene in every movie.
“I can’t wait for life to tear you apart” Kidman lovingly tells her daughter India. Who takes the vile attack on the chin. Why does India’s mother hate her so much? It’s not really revealed and the hatred seems to drain out of Kidman as quickly as it rose, replaced by mere annoyance or simple avoidance.
Kidman once had a few other tricks acting mimes up her sleeve but lately this has been her only delivery. It fails her as I struggle to understand her confusion. Her relationship with Charlie is obviously out of boredom and sexual angst. Yet at the expense of her daughters life seems too extreme even for looney eyes. Kidman’s casting seems too setup for Park’s Hollywood arrival, serving no other purpose.
STOKER attempts to be eerie, yet slams like hollow wood to the cold marble floor. Almost quirky laughable often bewildering and timid scenes embellished by spiders crawling up skirts and hunting for shoes in the woods create more of an Tim Burton effect though without the heavy tongue in cheek thankfully.
Stoker flounders in it’s own mire. Telegraphing each moment, and setting up victims like silent bobble head puppets yearning to die. Goode’s grinning face fails to engage or stimulate, though h dresses well. Kidman is lost and stumbling through the house to find something for her character to do and falls too easily into the arms of an obvious murderer. She disappears along the way, intermediatly popping up to be slapped around or choked.
This is mainly India’s story and her transformation from a odd young girl into a blatant killer. She masturbates in the shower to a disjointed memory or wishful thinking of Charlie killing a potential boyfriend that she had lined up for torture.
India finally graduates to killing her mentor with her favorite rifle, as he is choking the last vestages of acting ability from Kidman with her dead husbands leather belt. It’s clear she kills him for the joy of it not to defend her addled throaty mother.
On her escape, India is certain to attract the local near retirement Policeman and stab him in the neck, then pull out her rifle in cold calm enjoyment to end his life. It’s the American dream come true, to be able to kill without intervention with your favorite weapon of choice. Though it’s strangely English affectations in attitude and lifestyle seem to be a futile attempt to inject an aristocracy to the right to be a serial killer. India remains aloft till the end. We never see the moment when she is carted away for 35 years to a women’s mental ward. That may be for the sequel.
Filled with reality holes so huge, you have to wonder where is everyone? Where are the other Police? Why didn’t the examiner of India’s fathers body question the severe blows to the head from a sharp rock? Of course, the father was burnt to a crisp, how convenient. Why is Evelyn Stoker (Kidman) so bewildered and slathered in nonsense, lacking any mental acuity?
Why did Park do this movie and what was it in the subject matter that attracted him? Other than his love to tie up seemingly loose ends, like school girl shoes that graduate to heels. Yet Charlie wears the same type of shoes as India does.Almost totally unbelievable, mundane and reeking of a 70’s English mystery hour, gone too long without the earnest detective. It reeks of Dark Shadows with a bigger light budget.
India is wonderfully watchable in her sterile beauty and simple stares, as she discovers her orgasmic desires to kill. Much like boys discover girls in a fearful frenzy. Yet there is little rhythm to the dance of revelation and I would have preferred to sit this one out.
STOKER lacked Parks usual vigor and depth making the usual cinematography of PARKS earnest partner seem exaggerated and extreme.
Welcome to Hollywood, where it’s all thumbs on the road to a bigger house and cheaper art on the walls.