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article imageReview: 'Stoker' uses its good looks to distract from a weak script Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Mar 1, 2013 in Entertainment
‘Stoker’ is about a young woman’s infatuation with her enigmatic uncle, who shows up after a long absence when her father dies.
If your taste in movies leans towards the dark and unusual, a.k.a. art house films, then your mainstream theatre choices are generally limited. But occasionally one of these pictures creeps into the major cinemas (a little star power doesn't hurt either). Stoker is a strange movie that is overflowing with style, but lacking in substance.
On India Stoker's (Mia Wasikowska) 18th birthday, her father, Richard (Dermot Mulroney), is killed in an accident. On the day of his funeral, Richard's handsome but previously unseen brother, Charlie (Matthew Goode), arrives to help the family through their grief. Charlie's relatives are surprised by his appearance, though India's mother, Evelyn (Nicole Kidman), is just happy not to be alone; her daughter is rather independent. But there's a mystery surrounding Charlie and his intentions for his late brother's family, which is actually drawing India closer to him. In the meantime, India is discovering things about herself and her legacy that could drastically change her life.
This film exists in moments. While watching the movie, most of the events are predictable. The script never attempts to deviate and surprise audiences with the unexpected. Instead, it sets out on a beaten path and follows it straight through to the last act. In fact, the plot bears a striking resemblance to Alfred Hitchcock's Shadow of a Doubt.
However, the mastery is in the delivery of these predictable scenes. South Korean director Chan-wook Park (Oldboy) frames the shots to produce seamless parallel editing. He uses a shot's depth to reveal additional layers of the story. Creative lighting and editing create suspense within a scene, in spite of knowing exactly what's about to unfold. In short, this film is gorgeous.
Moreover, Goode is outstanding. His piercing gaze and striking good looks make it easy to ignore Charlie's odd behavior. He is perfectly charming in every circumstance. Wasikowska delivers a deadpan performance, relieved only by sarcastic smiles. Her intense responses to people are vehement. Kidman, on the other hand, is little more than an ornament in the picture.
Unfortunately, acting and stunning technical ability cannot elevate a B-level script very high.
Director: Chan-wook Park
Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Nicole Kidman and Matthew Goode
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