Monday, March 04, 2013


I suppose I could have passed on doing a review of Stoker, what with there already being one on eFilmCritic, but I've done one for each of Park's other movies (including one for Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance that suggests I really need to give it a second look), so might as well keep the streak alive, right?

It wasn't quite the early preview I'd thought - I half expected Stoker to only open in NYC/LA this weekend and hit Boston seven days later, but instead we got it right away. Almost not worth winding up in one of the side-sections to the Brattle and, if not actually deliberately missing my bus in the morning, not being too broken up when I would up telecommuting rather than trying to make it back from Burlington in time for a 7pm movie, right? Maybe. On the other hand, I got to see the movie on 35mm film, and who knows how many chances I'd have for that in the Boston area, right? Heck, a few months from now when the Brattle's successful Kickstarter has paid for DCP to be installed, maybe Fox wouldn't supply them a print even if that's what the theater prefers.

One thing that has been both amusing and impressive to me is how happily and effectively Palisades Tartan has jumped on the Stoker train. They're the company with the rights to all three "Vengeance trilogy" movies, and their Twitter account has been merrily retweeting any review of Stoker or interview with Director Park that might mention them, apparently figuring that they should do everything they can to benefit from being in the Park Chan-wook business at the same time Fox is. This includes getting their movies into theaters - from what I've seen, the Brattle's quick Vengeance Trilogy program (running once more as a marathon this Wednesday) isn't the only one happening across the nation. Not sure if it's a concerted push on Palisades' part or just trying to be accommodating, but either way, it's a pretty canny thing to do.


* * * * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 28 February 2013 in the Brattle Theatre (preview, 35mm)

With any luck, a fair number of the people seeing Stoker will do so without already being fans of director Park Chan-wook, drawn in by the nifty cast and striking previews. They're in for a treat, because Park has crossed the Pacific without losing any of what made him a big deal in South Korea, which means that not only is this movie a chilly thrill unlike most anything else in theaters right now, but there's half a dozen other good to great movies like it for them to discover.

India Stoker (Mia Wasikowska) lost her father on her eighteenth birthday, and being a somewhat odd girl to begin with, the funeral is a special kind of torture, especially since it seems to highlight the differences in temperament between her and her mother Evelyn (Nicole Kidman). As strange as the whole thing seems, the arrival of her uncle Charlie (Matthew Goode) makes it even more unsettling: For as much as Evelyn quickly hooks onto him as a younger, more attentive version of the husband from whom she drifted apart, nobody ever told India about him, and neither longtime housekeeper Mrs. McGarrick (Phyllis Somerville) nor great-aunt Gwendylon (Jacki Weaver) seems particularly happy to see him return from his travels.

Much of the first act of Stoker takes place at the large family home and its grounds, and what Park and his cohorts do with that location is kind of clever: It feels expensive and tony and until someone mentions their cellular telephone, it could be any time within the past fifty years there, with some things like India's wardrobe and the live-in help almost seeming deliberately anachronistic. Park and his design team (who really should be remembered next awards season) create a perfect, spotless upper-class New England environment - even tubs of ice cream have an idealized look to them - before visually pointing out that there are dark passages underneath or showing India in a normal public school and letting the audience chew on that juxtaposition.

Full review on eFilmCritic.

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