Mia Wasikowska is a sinister teen in nail-biting film directed by Park Chan-wook
Stoker, the first English-language drama from acclaimed South Korean auteur Park Chan-wook, introduces the edgy filmmaker to an entirely new audience unprepared for his operatic and bloody storytelling methods. For those of you watching a Park movie for the first time, trust me when I say you’re in for an extraordinary experience. For Park’s many diehard fans, Stoker turns out to be every bit as smart, stunning and unnerving as his Vengeance Trilogy of Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Oldboy and Lady Vengeance. Coming to America, at least in the case of this world auteur, turns out to be a fine and wonderful thing.
Actor-turned-writer Wentworth Miller and co-writer Erin Cressida Wilson deliver plenty of shocks in their story of India (Mia Wasikowska), a teenage girl devastated by the tragic death of her father Richard (Dermot Mulroney) in an unexplained car crash. India’s luxurious life with her unbalanced mother Evelyn (Nicole Kidman) turns sinister when her long-absent Uncle Charlie (Matthew Goode) arrives to help the Stoker women cope with their loss.
Nicole Kidman continues to show her commitment to independent fare after starring in Lee Daniels’ The Paperboy. Kidman partners beautifully with Wasikowska and together they make a sinister mother/daughter pair that’s too creepy even for the Brothers Grimm.
More importantly, Park and his frequent cameraman Chung-hoon Chung make beautiful use of Kidman, her elegant fashion, polished beauty and undeniable sense of privilege.
Just like the extravagant home of the Stoker women, the lush lawn outside their mansion and the beautiful décor, Kidman is also Stoker’s main object d’art, both as performer and a thing of steely beauty.
Wasikowska, last seen in a throwaway, girlfriend role in the mediocre bootlegging drama Lawless, makes great use of her pivotal character in Stoker, an innocent, soft-spoken teen who’s not so innocent after all, especially when it involves a pencil.
Matthew Goode, best known for the British period drama Brideshead Revisited, makes a creepy impact as the sinister Uncle Charlie and flashes the deadliest grin in recent memory. As Charlie, Goode proves to be viciously adept when it comes to using a leather belt but he turns out to be no match to India and her sharp shooter skills.
Critics and worldwide audiences continue to praise Park’s vengeance trilogy of films including Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Oldboy and Lady Vengeance as contemporary classics and his recent vampire drama Thirst as a clever addition to the horror genre.
Park's longtime fans may question his decision to partner with a rising star like Wasikowska and a celebrity actress like Kidman but his English-language directing debut turns out to be a win-win situation for all movie fans. Basically, longtime fans like myself get to enjoy Park bringing his unique talents to a different playing field. Meanwhile, a new community of moviegoers will receive the chance to experience Park for the first time. I think they’ll enjoy, well, in a nail-biting way, what they see.