August 12, 2014

Stoker: Park Chan-wook Comes to America

So the actors aren't speaking Korean. So what? Stoker is nevertheless a Korean movie because it's still very much a Park Chan-wook movie. A vexatious coming-of-age tale shaped by sociopathic genetics, Stoker -- like so many Park flicks before it -- is a deviously crafted thriller with Park misleading you then revealing clues that make you retrace your steps only to you realize that you were never misinformed, just uninformed. Here are the players this time around: Evelyn, a recent widow (Nicole Kidman) who always felt like the odd man out with her now-dead husband and ice-cold daughter; India, said offspring (Mia Wasikowska) who has her own outsider status at high school where she gets straight A's but has no friends; Uncle Charlie (a really good Matthew Goode), a mystery man who shows up from out of nowhere then stirs up some heat with mother and daughter. Let the intergenerational rivalry begin.

Like Bong Joon-ho's Snowpiercer earlier this year, Park makes some fascinating casting choices for his Hollywood debut. Aside from the aforementioned trio, he's brought on board Jacki Weaver (a two-time Oscar nominee who remains someone that no one's heard of), Dermot Mulroney (the former heartthrob who's now pudgy and gray), and perhaps most delightfully, Harmony Korinne (the indie screenwriter behind Kids, Gummo and Ken Park). Though Korinne's time on screen is fleeting, Park's nod to this fellow auteur is kind of perfect. Park and Korinne are both fearless directors who've got aesthetics unlike anyone else. I also was pleased that Park stuck with his longtime cinematographer Chung Chung-hoon which ensures that Stoker always looks like a Park film as much as it feels like one or sounds like one, even in English.

Given how enthralling Stoker is, I suspect the reason it didn't do better at the box office stateside is that the movie touches on so many taboos -- incest, child-killing, teenage sexuality -- with a disturbingly sweaty hand. Park never condemn atrocities. He bears witness, glosses them up a bit, then stands back leaving you to feel the horror. Alone. Stoker's unsettling for sure.

No comments:

Post a Comment