What kind of movie gets into the Sundance Film Festival these days? If you have ever seen the excellent documentary film, “Official Rejection”, Hollywood has hijacked the festival so the little guy has very little chance of getting in. That is not to say interesting, non-traditional films are not coming out of there. “Stoker” is such a film and it finally opens today in South Florida after being in limited release in other parts of the country.
The story of “Stoker” is hard to define in just a few sentences, which is part of the charm of this movie. A rich, attractive, introverted young woman named India Stoker (Mia Wasikowska) loses her father to a tragic accident. An uncle whom she never even knew existed (Matthew Goode) comes to live with her and her unstable mother (Nicole Kidman). Uncle Charles does not turn out to be the good man he pretends to be, yet that does not seem to put off India at all. In fact, it seems to have the opposite effect on her.
Chan-wook Park directed “Stoker” and it is his directing style that really makes this movie stand out. Usually if a director is doing too many fancy tricks to get you to notice him, it would be a bad sign for the movie. This time it is not the case. The way Park and cinematographer Chung-hoon Chung frames shots is so beautifully artistic. The way they move the camera can also be pretty inventive. Instead of panning over to one character or tracking the camera over to them, he will move the camera in an elliptical manner, the way the hands go over a clock from 10:00 to 2:00. It registers in your head that you have not seen camera work done this way before.
It takes some time to fully grasp what’s going on in “Stoker”. The story is not laid out in a clear cut manner which may be off-putting to some viewers. Understanding the characters and their motivations can be even more difficult. Nicole Kidman is brilliant in her role, as always, but what exactly is “wrong” with her is unclear. She is India’s biological mother, but she comes across as more as a step-mother who must now fill the void left by her real father. She takes a great liking to Charles, but if it is because she is lonely or just some skank is unclear. Her character serves as more of a tool rather than have any real purpose in the movie.
Mia Wasikoska’s India is even more of a mystery. She’s a great character to play. The kind any actor or actress would love to sink teeth into. India is very strong in that nothing seems to bother her, at least on the outside. School bullies don’t even make her flinch. You’re intrigued by her, even if you don’t fully understand where she is coming from.
Again, it is the style in which “Stoker” was made that grabs the most attention. It is shot and edited in such a unique manner; you begin to question whether or not something is wrong with the projection. The sound design really stands out too. Even the sound of India rolling the shell off a hard-boiled egg will send a shiver up your spine. The music score only adds to the intrigue of this movie.
“Stoker” is not for everyone; but, out of all the movies opening this weekend, it is the one that deserves your hard earned dollars the most. It is certainly worth a second viewing, as some things need to be seen twice to understand them better. Plus, the advanced screening at the Regal Royal Palm earlier in the week was interrupted when power was lost 15-minutes before the movie was supposed to end. If the movie was not worth seeing no one would care how it ended, but those at the screening all seemed interested in going back just to see how it ends, a strong testament for any movie out there. It is rated R for disturbing violent and sexual content and nudity.