101 plot holes. Stoker has a lot more problems than that, including indecipherable and incoherent characters. Mia Wasikowska (as India Stoker) is part of the problem, playing one of those disturbed and obstinately private characters who deep down is capable of doing wrong. She loses her father at the beginning of the story, and her mother Evie (Nicole Kidman) invites Uncle Charlie (Matthew Goode, the most vanilla of actors) to come live with them on their vast estate following the funeral. But Uncle Charlie is not a normal cad, apparent to us but no one else on screen. Anyway, this visually vibrant film is a fiasco.
Yes, the camerawork is stellar – if I graded that alone I’d give it four stars. But the cockamamie screenplay is so bad I’d give that negative four stars. On average, you get a one. What’s with over-privileged characters living on gothic estates? Are they all bat crazy, or what? India is a mumbler of a character prone to morbid impulses, Charlie is a polo-sweater gentleman with a Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde schizophrenia, Evie is a self-possessed mom into Prada and lipstick.
I won’t tell you who or by whom (I’ll also spare you by mentioning the other half dozen actors in the cast), but the first murder that takes place is so laughably contrived and heedlessly thoughtless, that you might get a migraine headache right then and there wondering how and why the scene – and the movie itself – ever got conceived. It’s an amateur killing by a murderer begging to be caught in a well-lit area, at the kind of well-lit booth that is fun to photograph by a director and cinematographer. The film cross-cuts with another revelation at an additional location, with a character finding another body tucked away in a freezer. This body discovery is never referred to or mentioned again. Seriously.
This is a ludicrous, tedious, and unthrilling story by first-time screenwriter Wentworth Miller (TV actor of “Prison Break”). He has written a story that had my friend next to me reply, “the whole thing was made just to make me feel uncomfortable.” Behind the camera is venerable South Korean director Chan Wook-Park, whom is responsible for six consecutive films that I avidly admire. He is responsible for the rapturous gothic look of the picture, which impresses us for ten minutes. Had “Stoker” been a good movie I would have mentioned Chan Wook-Park’s name at the top of this review. The key word to describe this movie, I’ll repeat: Ludicrous.
The film was shot in Nashville, Tennessee. Not even Jim Jarmusch (“Mystery Train”) could do worse tarnishing this city’s image. There is also some sexual imagery in “Stoker,” but alas, it’s all unwholesome and in bad taste.
98 Minutes. Rated R.
MYSTERY-SUSPENSE / GOTHIC CINEMA / FRIDAY NIGHT SUCKFEST
Film Cousins: “Mystery Train” (1989); “Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance” (2002, South Korea); “Tideland” (2005); “Hounddog” (2008).