Stoker

Not Stalker

Although you could be mistaken. This psychothriller was a bit of a surprise. I didn’t know what to expect because the cast includes Nicole Kidman and that always makes me balk. I watched this one gingerly and really it’s not too bad. It’s not too good either but it’s not some bit of schlock and it’s not some pretentious bit of Arthouse crud so it’s already ahead of the curve there – even with Nciole in it.

The director and DOP are both Koreans so the pace of the film is a little odd. It might be a cultural thing or it might be a genuine weirdness the director brings to the pace of the film. It’s also difficult to tell where the story is going in the first third so that was a little hard to contend with – but past that point, the film becomes more rewarding.

As usual, spoiler alert!

What’s Good About It

The best thing in this little film might be the script, followed by the performances. The film is understated in most part with sudden bursts of lurid cinematic energy. The peculiarity of the story also keeps you off balance and therefore guessing. It’s also quite hard to get a bead on the moral centre of the main character. Is she simply put upon or  is she good or is she just plain alienated or weird or all of these things? The film doesn’t really give you an answer until the end, but when it does it’s oddly satisfying.

Also, this might be the last film with Tony Scott’s name in the credits – he’s credited with having produced this film.

What’s Bad About It

Some of the twists and turns feel like the film is meandering. Especially in the first half, making it quite hard to stay in the narrative space with the film. I felt myself wanting to disengage from it often in the first half. I’ve never been good with coming-of-age stories of weird girls as a sub sub genre. I understand it’s sensitive, but I’m too alienated myself to feel a great deal of compassion for the slightly disjointed. So every time the film veered in that direction I wanted to groan.

Also, when we do (SPOILER!) find out that the main character is just as murderously psychotic as her uncle at the end, we sort of switch right off from the  film. It’s merciful that it ends just about there.

Then the credits run up in the opposite direction like in Se7en’, which is pretty trite.

What’s Interesting About It

All these Aussies! Our Nicole, Mia Wasikowska, and Jacki Weaver race the screen and in one scene, the three of them are at the dinner table squabbling. It felt so much like… AFTRS!

More seriously, there is something weirdly taboo-breaking about the film. There’s something transgressive about the relationship between uncle Charlie and India, there’ something warped about Evelyn’s advances on Charlie, and then Jacki Weaver turns up looking like the loopy great aunt. After the murder of Whip, India washes herself of evidence in the shower and then masturbates, thus linking her libido with the violence. Uncle Charlie is full of love for his niece but he’s also completely full of it, so you keep suspecting that his professed love for family and India is downright incestuous as well, but of course it never quite plays out that way.  It’s all very odd.

The film really flipflops around these odd moments while it gathers a weird carnal energy, so the climatic gun shot comes more as a kind of ejaculatory relief. Like I said, it’s a very weird film. And then they bury the bodies under big concrete balls. It’s a psychosexual kind of thriller with special emphasis on psycho.

Nicole Kidman Is Quite Good In This

I know, I know. I’m usually harsh on the woman but I have to say she’s quite good in this one and she’s picked a good role. She’s good at playing phoneys much more than she is at playing earnest people, and this character is a big phoney. Just as an aside, she plays a delightfully bent hooker or stripper or some kind of low-life sex worker in ‘The Paperboy’ opposite Zac Efron and that’s a really good performance too. While the two roles are vastly disparate, what seems to be working in her favour in each instance is how disingenuous these characters are and playing up that angle seems to be a great strength with her acting.

It’s also amazing watching her because I don’t think I recognise the woman who played this role. It’s like a totally different human being.

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