Zero stars. Arguably the worst film of the year.
Many know Korean director Park Chan-Wook from his “Vengeance Trilogy” from which sprung his most famous film, Oldboy (2003). Wook is extremely oriented towards the visual world, and attempts to visually integrate an audience into wherever the story leads often at the expense of that said story.
So now we come to his English language debut, in an unsurprisingly visual film. Yay, pretty things to look at!
It has been a very long time since I have seen a narrative feature be so completely devoid of any and all point.
In Stoker, we are introduced to a recently broken family, where the husband has just died and the mother and daughter are supposedly grieving for their loss. I say supposedly because if there is anything close to a sense of emotion present in any of the main characters it’s invisible. India (Mia Wasikowska) is an odd girl who likes to run around the woods barefoot, arrange shoes, practice piano all while constantly staring a giant hole through absolutely everything. Her mother (Nicole Kidman) is a vain woman who does the opposite, nearly tripping over herself in order to play at the facade of being a grand figure.
Into to this loving home comes the dead husband’s brother, Charlie (Mathew Goode), who is overly charming and nearly perfect in every sort of way. Save for the fact that some treat him with fear and his penchant for following people around while trying not to seem creepy.
It is damn near impossible to ignore the continual parallels to Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt (1943). This occurs so frequently and so vividly that you spend the majority of the film wishing that you were watching that brilliantly executed classic drama.
The transitions are a real bone of contention. They become a constant annoyance bridging every scene and shot with the most obvious of parallels to cut between whether they are visual or auditory. The entire point of a cut is to be seamless and invisible so the mere idea of calling attention to the seam of a film is to reveal the artifice behind the illusion. When this is done on a continual basis it both disorients and disconnects the viewer from the narrative. However, in this case since there was no integration or narrative to begin with it only adds to the agonizingly overlong experience of sitting through this supreme emptiness.
It is only at the final act of the film that an idea of true plot comes into play, and as with Oldboy, there is a flurry of reveals with each seemingly undoing the previous one. Finally we believe a conclusion is in sight only to have that yanked back from us as well to let the film carry on stringing the audience along for another ten minutes. To add the final touch, Stoker’s denouement is so completely unresolved and poorly executed that the audience exits wondering just exactly what they spent their thirteen bucks on.
There is nothing to discuss. Nothing to question, nothing to think about, nothing to consider. No points are made, themes are merely shallow pastiches of the word, and the short 95 minute runtime feels like twice that. It has been a very, very, very long time since I have sat through such a big waste of time.
Instead of going to your nearest arthouse or independent theater (where this film is mostly playing nationwide) and wasting the admission or even the rental price, revisit Shadow of a Doubt and marvel at its intricacies. Because there are none to be found in Stoker. Anywhere.