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"Stoker" Review: A Masterpiece of Mannered Mayhem.
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By Erich Vandussen
Erich Van Dussen's film reviews have been featured in newspapers and magazines, on the radio, and online for more than 20 years. He lives in the Finger Lakes region.
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Chan-wook Park, director of the visceral 2005 masterpiece Oldboy, has crossed the pond with stylish savagery in Stoker, the South Korean filmmaker’s first English-language work. The plot is pure Hitchcockian melodrama: on her 18th birthday, India Stoker (Mia Wasikowska of Alice in Wonderland) loses her father in an auto accident, leaving her in a loveless home situation with her inattentive mother (Nicole Kidman). Then Uncle Charlie arrives: dad’s long-lost brother moves in, oozing sinister charm and setting off alarms in India and sensible audiences everywhere. Matthew Goode, a promising English actor who has yet to land the star-making role he deserves, plays Charlie with a weird mix of Cary Grant insouciance and Gary Oldman reserved menace – this smooth-talker just might be a genuine lady-killer.
Park directs his film with uncanny precision: every scene feels as carefully arranged as the place settings around Hannibal Lecter’s dinner table. That same mannered approach is at work in the story, adding a surreally passive ambience to the acts of violence that collect in Charlie’s wake. Kidman’s performance is essentially one-note (can she do better than that anymore?), but Wasikowska and Goode play wonderfully off each other in this frighteningly genteel fairy tale of good and bad manners.

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