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Sundance Review and Roundup: Park Chan-Wook's Creepy 'Stoker'

Reviews
by Anne Thompson
January 21, 2013 6:11 PM
3 Comments
  • |

There's a risk every time a noted foreign filmmaker takes a stab at an English-language movie. Clearly, Korean filmmaker Park Chan-wook ("Old Boy") knows his Hollywood history: he admits that Alfred Hitchcock not only inspired him to become a filmmaker but that "Psycho," "Shadow of a Doubt," and "The Trouble With Harry" creeped into archetypal thriller "Stoker," which is based on actor-writer Wentworth Miller's script.

Park chose his project cannily: "Stoker" is a simple, straightforwardly universal gothic fable that will play across many cultures. In his introduction in Park City Sunday, Park actually called this coming-of-age story a "fairy tale." Visually and aurally, in terms of the music, sound design and editing, the movie is gorgeous. But some of the iconography is too on-the-nose: saddle shoes, spike heels, insects etc.

The actors do their best with the material, especially Nicole Kidman and Mia Wasikowska, who suddenly lose their husband and father (Dermot Mulroney) in a car accident and are both attracted to a mysterious Uncle (Matthew Goode) who materializes soon after their husband/father dies. But they don't have much to work with. The plot is all-too predictable.

It's tempting to wonder what the film would have been like with Colin Firth in the Uncle played by Goode, who makes a sexy but cardboard villain. He might have brought some depth; he may have figured out why he didn't want to do the role.

Fox Searchlight may be able to sell this high-end horror feature on its top flight elements, but I worry that's it's a 'tweener--not smart-house and not mainstream genre either. Critics may not be kind. See a Sundance sampling below.

3 Comments

  • Little My | January 22, 2013 5:22 AMReply

    Ummm but Critics have been kind it has received rave reviews from almost everybody except Indiewire's playlist. So...........

  • Kate | January 21, 2013 6:50 PMReply

    I frequently like Matthew Goode in lighter film fare. He's very charming. But he doesn't have the intensity or the nuance of some of his peers, like Michael Fassbender, Tom Hardy, or Cillian Murphy. He might be smart to try to carve out a Hugh Grant-like career for himself.

  • Jen | January 22, 2013 12:44 PM

    I disagree. Matthew Goode has loads of talent, and he can do the bad guy and good guy roles. Sadly, he hasn't found the right project to highlight his talents. Goode has the charisma and the acting talents of James McAvoy and Cillian Murphy.

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