Stoker

Stoker-1993581-headerStoker (March 26, 2013, Bow Tie Cinema City)

Stoker is an all-around great picture, with undeniable talent both in front of and behind the camera. So, I am trying to figure out why its last shot left me recalling Hanna and wondering what the point of it all was.
Park Chan Wook’s (Oldboy) English language debut is another of his twisted tales of family ties—this time concerning a bizarre girl, India, whose father dies on her eighteenth birthday. Uncle Charlie arrives at his funeral—her dad’s brother, who India did not know existed. And it seems he has taken a special liking to his niece. They have a special bond.
In fact, they do. Through flashbacks, we witness a young Charlie exhibiting the behavior we have seen from India. Why is it they are so similar? Through the course of the picture, it is revealed that, like her Uncle, she has been born with a certain carnal desire, and a skill for killing. Unlike Hanna’s father, Eric Bana, who turns her into basically a weapon, India’s father takes her on long hunting trips; trying to curb the arising desire for carnage he sees in her and had seen in his brother, hoping that if you do one bad thing, it may stop you from doing another.
Now anybody who recalls Shadow of a Doubt when they hear the name Uncle Charlie can predict the thru-line of Wentworth Miller’s script—down to his whistling even!—but it is Park’s fascination with the macabre and morbid sexuality that drives this tale apart and turns up the creeps. The picture moves fluidly back and forth through time, and Park crafts a world so antiseptic and bizarre, it is clearly not reality. So you’ll forgive the inhabits for being a little off (or a bit too much like stock characters—this is a movie where if your surname is Stoker, you’re a fully fleshed out psychologically complex character…and if it is not, you have the depth of a reject supporting character from a god awful monster movie where you refuse to believe the person telling you that a creature in a rubber suit will get you!). But, in a film where a Connecticut town looks a lot like Tennessee, it can all be said to be part of the dreamscape.
So why the feeling at the end? Perhaps after Old Boy and Thirst, my expectations for Park are unreasonably high. Perhaps, because it took me to such dark places and gave me such hope for a revelatory resolution that the “BANG BANG!” slo-motion visuals to pop music felt like an unfair payoff.
But underneath all that style, in the dark crevices is an interesting examination of humanity: why people may behave as they do—actions, consequences, and these things called morality and guilt: right and wrong.
Amidst its FLASH-BANG—“I’m a director!” pyrotechnics, it quietly lets Dermot Mulroney’s little girl all grown up out on the road. And what will she do, and how will she behave? Park leaves that to us. He has shown us a few days. It is up to us to determine how we feel about people such as The Stokers—and their ability to function in this world. In Park’s world of bad stock characters, there may be a lot of expendables around to help India find a way to get to good.

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