Unlimited Access. Try it Today! Your First 10 Days Always $0.99

Movies

Entertainment Movies

'Stoker': Shadow of an homage, infused with violence ★★ 1/2

A young woman's reddish-brown hair, in close-up, dissolves into an overhead shot of wild reeds, eased this way and that by the wind. "Stoker" would be nothing without such flourishes. The film swims in them, and cares little for conventional narrative tension.

Photographed in Tennessee but set in an indistinct American location near nowhere in particular, the movie follows characters as they glide through a pristine void, eyeing each other amid faultlessly art-directed surroundings before getting stabbed or shot or doing the shooting or stabbing.

The psychosexual cross-currents flow not so much as they do in life, but the way they do in a Park Chan-Wook movie. This is what we have here. "Stoker" comes from the South Korean director whose "Vengeance Trilogy" ("Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance," "Oldboy" and "Lady Vengeance") won admirers around the world, as did Park's vampire picture, "Thirst," my favorite of his so far.

See it if you haven't: It's pretty great, and it'll help you forget "Twilight" ever happened.

Park's latest stakes out new territory for the director as a gun for hire, filming a script by Wentworth Miller deeply indebted to the 1943 Hitchcock picture "Shadow of a Doubt" (speaking of great). Like Joseph Cotten's blithe Uncle Charlie in that film, "Stoker" casts Matthew Goode as the mysterious visiting uncle of our hostess and narrator, India, played by Mia Wasikowska. With her father, Charlie's brother, recently dead and buried, 18-year-old India can't help but notice that her mother (Nicole Kidman) makes goo-goo eyes and squeals every time Uncle Charlie is near. India has her own feelings for this man.

Something's gotta give! Densely plotted, though not exactly full of surprises, "Stoker" nudges India toward all sorts of forbidden fruit and trials of fire. Wasikowska is a fine, intriguing actress, though I'm not sure anyone could make actual psychological sense of this woman. Nobody on screen — not Kidman, not Goode, not Wasikowska, not Jacki Weaver as Auntie Gin — seems entirely at home in the chosen (or guessed-at) style. And yet, as it becomes more and more delirious in its explanations of Charlie's past, "Stoker" at least gives you a few images to remember, such as the precisely judged long shot of one unlucky character staggering across a lonely road with a pair of garden shears sticking out of his skull.

mjphillips@tribune.com

'Stoker' -- 2 1/2 stars
MPAA rating:
R (for disturbing violent and sexual content)
Running time: 1:40
Opens: Friday

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
Related Content
  • 10 movies to see this winter
    10 movies to see this winter

    Tribune movie critic Michael Phillips picks 10 movies you should see in the coming months.

  • Top 50 superhero movies of the last 10 years
    Top 50 superhero movies of the last 10 years

    Since 2002 there have been arguably 50 movies about superheroes. Arguably, because genre is tricky; it's often variations on a theme, and some variations are less obvious than others. ("Star Wars," for instance, a bit of a space western, is no one's picture of the western genre.) Oh, also: Because...

  • Oscars 2013: Red carpet arrivals
    Oscars 2013: Red carpet arrivals

    Jessica Chastain, Amy Adams, Anne Hathaway, Kerry Washington, Hugh Jackman and more stars arrive at the Dolby Theatre for the 85th Academy Awards. By Jevon Phillips. Winners | Red carpet | Show highlights | Quotes | Backstage | Winners' room | Best & worst moments | Best dressed | Worst dressed...

  • Best movies of 2012
    Best movies of 2012

    Tribune movie critic Michael Phillips picks the top 10 movies of the year.

  • Review: 'Clouds of Sils Maria'
    Review: 'Clouds of Sils Maria'

    Now 60, and always more of a wry classicist than a maverick, the writer-director Olivier Assayas is one of the steadiest and most reliable filmmakers in contemporary cinema. I like his latest, "Clouds of Sils Maria," a great deal; it's beautifully acted and has a few wise (if familiar) things to...

  • Review: 'The Salt of the Earth'
    Review: 'The Salt of the Earth'

    Watching "The Salt of the Earth," the compelling new documentary about photographer Sebastiao Salgado, it becomes clear early on just how odd it is to experience Salgado's work on someone else's timetable. With an exhibition or a book of photographs, you set your own clock, spending as much time...

  • Review: 'Monkey Kingdom'
    Review: 'Monkey Kingdom'

    Compile all the sufferings and adversities heaped upon all the vulnerable protagonists in the complete works of Charles Dickens, from "Little Dorrit" to "Oliver Twist," and you'd still fall short of the 81 minutes of hardship endured by Maya, the simian heroine of Disneynature's new nature documentary...

  • Review: 'True Story'
    Review: 'True Story'

    "True Story" is a case of a well-crafted film, made by a first-time feature director with an impressive theatrical pedigree, that nonetheless struggles to locate the reasons for telling its story.

Comments
Loading

57°