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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Stoker starring Nicole Kidman as Lana Turner

So last night I saw the new film, Stoker, starring Nicole Kidman, Mia Wasikowska and Matthew Goode as one seriously disturbed family. Actor Wentworth Miller (TV's Prison Break) wrote the screenplay (his first), and I was interested in seeing the movie after learning that he was influenced by Alfred Hitchock's Shadow of a Doubt, a 1943 psychological thriller about a teenage girl who suspects that her Uncle Charlie is a murderer. And this is the initial premise of Stoker, in which a teenage India Stoker (Wasikowska) realizes that her charming Uncle Charlie (Goode) is a crazy killer. However, this being 2013, the movie, of course, is rated R for "disturbing violent and sexual content", which Hitchcock did not feature 70 years ago. This also gives it more of a Brian De Palma vibe than a Hitchcock one, which is perfectly fine - especially if you're a fan of Mr. De Palma's films (Dressed to Kill, Sisters) as I am. And Park Chan-wook's effective direction combined with Chung Chung-hoon's beautiful cinematography makes Stoker quite visually entertaining to watch.

Kidman's performance as India's newly widowed mother Evelyn also reminded me of another old movie - Imitation of Life, the 1959 classic melodrama starring Lana Turner and Sandra Dee as a mother and daughter in love with the same man. Stoker definitely has its melodramatic moments, but Kidman doesn't have a lot to do as Evelyn except look pretty, bat her eyelashes at her handsome brother-in-law, and listen to Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood's 1967 song, "Summer Wine". The film belongs to Wasikowska - whom I previously liked in The Kids Are All Right - and the gorgeous Mr. Goode, who is equally adept at playing both a seductive stud and a total psychopath. Their increasingly tense relationship is what kept me on the edge of my seat - wondering how it all was going to turn out - and both actors give exceptional performances worth seeing.

I was disappointed by the small roles of Dermot Mulroney (as the deceased husband, father and brother of the main characters) and the Oscar-nominated Jacki Weaver (Silver Linings Playbook), who briefly appears as Charlie's aunt. But the movie isn't about them. Instead this twisted tale is all about a young girl and her uncle, who enjoy playing the piano together - and hunting prey. So if you like your Hitchcock with a bit of De Palma blood and a twist of Turner, then I recommend that you check out Stoker.

Stoker opens in select theaters this Friday (March 1).

My Grade: B
Running time: 98 minutes

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