Wentworth Miller’s screenwriting credit is a dead giveaway to “Stoker’s” imminent failure. The scribe responsible for such dreck as “Resident Evil: Afterlife” constructs a haphazard thriller that fails in every regard except for style, which arrives in spades courtesy of Korean director Park Chan-Wook (“Oldboy”). “Stoker” marks Chan-Wook’s first English-language film.
Miller freely rips off Alfred Hitchcock’s “Shadow of a Doubt” (1943) in constructing a far less adequate American Gothic thriller about India Stoker (Mia Wasikowska), a gloomy girl whose beloved father dies on her 18th birthday. India’s mysterious long lost uncle Charles (Matthew Goode) shows up at the wake before inserting himself as a permanent fixture in the Stoker household alongside India’s ice queen mother Evelyn (Nicole Kidman). India dislikes her uncle with a passion that gradually shifts to boiling romantic passion. The film tilts at Charles’s implicit desire to share in a mother-daughter threesome, although his more immediate priorities involve a penchant for serial killing.
“Stoker” boasts a guffaw-inducing moment when Nicole Kidman’s long missing character appears from a plot hole as deep as an oil well to witness Charlie putting the make on India. “I’m sorry,” Evelyn says, as if she’s barely awake, before retreating to who knows where.
Regardless of how beautifully Park Chan-Wook shot the movie, “Stoker” plays like a thin book that’s missing more than a few pages. Rather than building on plot and character motivation, the storyline skips toward an anti-climax that relies on an audience’s sense of obligation to the film’s visual presentation to forgive it for its unnourished narrative. Who could be so forgiving?
Rated R. 98 mins.
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