Stoker

18 Mar

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Synopsis: “After India’s father dies, her Uncle Charlie, who she never knew existed, comes to live with her and her unstable mother. She comes to suspect this mysterious, charming man has ulterior motives and becomes increasingly infatuated with him.” (Rated R; 1 hour, 38 minutes)

Strangely enough, this was the second film I’ve seen in 2013 that was the English-language debut of a Korean filmmaker.  The first was The Last Stand (reviewed within that link), while this one is the debut of Chan-wook Park, the violently inventive director of OldboyI saw both films with Jared (purely by happenstance), and although The Last Stand was a more mindlessly entertaining movie, Stoker is a fascinating, highly creative, stylized attempt at making a “Hitchcock” film. At times though, it became too stylized, and I’m not sure there was even a point for all of it; but the good outweighed the silly, and I continue to be impressed by Park’s work.

The thing that sticks out the most within the movie has to be its sound. Not the music – though that plays a part as well – but rather each and every sound effect is so deliberate and grating that it becomes a supporting character to the story. A wine glass slowly pushed across the table brings a troubling screeching sound to the foreground that creates a mood of unease. The metronome above the piano ticks away and builds a tension that clashes with the pleasant music being played on the piano. In fact, these sounds brought me back to the movie Atonement, which also utilized each and every noise in the foreground (rather than the background where the Foley artists like to subtlely show-off their work). It’s an interesting device, and certainly felt consistent with the heavily stylized camerawork. Scenes that had happened either in reality or in the imagination of the main characters would flash on the screen in an interesting way; making you wonder what was an actual flashback versus what could be fantasy.

The thing is that style will never outperform substance for my personal liking, and thus when this movie began I was afraid it would be all style and little substance. Images such as a spider climbing up Mia Wasikowska’s leg may have been visually interesting, but I don’t know that they were ever explained. Luckily, about half an hour into the film the plot became interesting, and provided me with my fair share of “whoa” moments. When it was over, I told Adi and Jared that I felt like I was watching a really cool modern day, over-stylized Hitchcock film, with dashes of Dexter thrown in for good measure.

The writer of the movie turned out to be Wentworth Miller, aka Michael Scofield from the show Prison Break (the main character). It was his debut screenplay, and it will be interesting to see what he does next as a writer. It also amuses me to note that almost everyone involved in the movie was “faking it”. Chan-wook Park was trying to make his way through an English language film for his first time (he used an interpreter), while a very British Wentworth Miller was writing American words of dialogue for Mia Wasikowska (Australian), Nicole Kidman (Australian), Jacki Weaver (Australian) and Matthew Goode (English). I watch a movie like this and just wonder: if the entire cast was already Australian, why not just let them BE Australian? The acting would inevitably be even better if they don’t have to focus on “faking it” and I don’t see how the story would suffer or even be affected. Though I will say that Matthew Goode was highly effectively creepy as the mysterious uncle who shows up.  I was excited to see  Alden Ehrenreich again, the main actor who I spoke highly of in my Beautiful Creatures review. However, between the short nature of his role, and his bizarre character development which made NO sense, I’m going to have to wait until his next movie to be impressed.

The actors each did an interesting job overall, though I wouldn’t  count on walking out being able to understand each and every plot point, character development, and imagery. Instead just enjoy the sounds, the visuals and the development of a cool, twisted story.

The movie was better than Hitchcock, the blandly ordinary biopic about his making of the movie Psycho, which lacked any of Stoker’s imagination or danger. The movie was not nearly as great as Atonement, which also used sound as a central personality of the movie, as well as the director’s film Oldboy which was an insane adrenaline rush of a revenge movie that I recommend to any action fan reading this.

Quality Rating: B (Many points given for its style and creativity, but many more removed for having too much of it, along with it not all making sense even by the end)

Boaz Rating: B+ (This is a movie where how I felt changed throughout the experience, going from lows to highs and back to lows again; but the coolness factor throughout the climax was too much to not give it an overall positive Boaz Rating)

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8 Responses to “Stoker”

  1. Linda March 19, 2013 at 10:26 am #

    Fascinating comments. One movie in the past where sound and music really impressed me was Catch Me if You Can and a show which has some subtle geometric visuals is Dexter.

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    • boazconstrictor March 19, 2013 at 10:32 am #

      I actually can’t remember what you’re referring to in Catch me if you Can, though I liked that movie. Wonder if I’d see what you mean if I saw it again. Dexter ranges between being awesome to being a guilty pleasure, but I definitely thought of it during this movie as mentioned in the review.

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  2. zralston March 19, 2013 at 10:29 am #

    I’m surprised you liked it so much. Yes, it’s stylish (you’re probably on your way over to my review right now — and haha, we both commented on the sound design of course) but it’s SO. DAMN. STUPID. I do not look forward to anything else Miller writes, ever.

    And you really thought Goode was effectively creepy? I can’t imagine seeing a worse performance the rest of 2013. He was laughable to me. Never creepy, never believable, never anything other than “wow is that guy trying to act?”

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    • boazconstrictor March 19, 2013 at 10:37 am #

      Ha, yes, I’m always thrilled when you remind me that you reviewed a movie because you know I like to read yours after seeing and reviewing mine independently. Here’s what we agreed on: The sound and style was over-the-top and didn’t always have a purpose, and Park’s movie “Oldboy” was awesome. Where we differ this time around is how much the ridiculous over-the-top stylization affected your final judgment of the movie. I wavered but thought the plot went in a cool enough old-school direction that I liked the movie partly because of and partly in spite of that style. You got irritated and hated it as a result. 🙂
      I’m REALLY glad I didn’t read your review first because it would have not only affected my personal unbiased judgment of it, but also given a spoiler about the plot and her character (the shower scene)!
      Love when you comment, thanks as always Zach, such great, honesty feedback!

      Like

      • zralston March 19, 2013 at 10:51 am #

        You’re welcome — glad you’re reading and we get to have this dialogue. Now I can’t wait until you see Spring Breakers to see if you agree with my take on that one.

        Like

  3. boazconstrictor March 19, 2013 at 11:00 am #

    I often get an idea from what you thought of a movie from just the first line of dialogue (since I get the posts emailed to me) in spite of trying to ignore it til later. Thus you’re forbidden from ever putting any spoilers in the first few lines, don’t do it! 🙂
    And yes, I saw you reviewed that, will hopefully catch it on my end at some point. As for tonight? Jack and the Giant Slayer is the plan, you know I love my big dumb spectacles!

    Like

    • zralston March 24, 2013 at 5:11 pm #

      Deal. No spoilers in the first line (I rarely put spoilers in at all, if i can help it). But at least you’d see my rating out of 10 in the title, right?

      Like

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