|Starring||Mia Wasikowska, Nicole Kidman, Matthew Goode, Jacki Weaver, Dermot Mulroney, Lucas Till, Harmony Korine|
|Release||1 MAR (US) 1 MAR (UK) Certificate 18|
Uncle Charlie begins to drive a wedge between India and her mother, although they're already so estranged that it would have to be a wedge the size of a small town driven by, ooh, a really big wedge-driving thing to push them any further apart. Flirting with both women, Charlie appears to offer Evelyn something she hasn't had for a long time, while simultaneously arousing more than just the odd suspicion in India. Either that or she's just really itchy down below.
So far, so 21st century Shadow Of A Doubt, but that's about as far as the Hitchcomparisons go. As things take a turn for the sinister, the much-anticipated, deliciously labyrinthine storytelling which marks out Park's best work fails to materialise, replaced by an unsurprising sequence of events and an unsatisfying last-act reveal. And while Wasikowska is excellent as a real-life Wednesday Addams, Kidman is left with too little to do and Goode, though Goode, is not Goode enough. He needs to come across like a young Jack Nicholson, sexy and terrifying, but instead provides no more spunk or danger than a well-made table.
Fortunately Stoker does look absolutely incredible, and the synthesis of Park's remarkable visuals and his heart-stoppingly beautiful cast works to paper over some of the cracks in the story. Had this been a first feature, it would be a flawed but exciting debut that promised a bright future, but this is Park Chan-wook's ninth film, and it's increasingly obvious that he deserves better scripts to match his peerless aesthetic.
Like many auteurs, it's Park's curse that all his films will forever be compared to his masterpieces, but even as a standalone vehicle Stoker fails to incite the flames of its plot as much as its title suggests. "Sometimes you need to do something bad to stop you doing something worse," India reflects, and while Stoker is by no means bad, you've got to hope that making it stops Park Chan-wook misdirecting his talent on lesser films in the future.