STOKER (2013, Park Chan-wook): 3/10
People have often charged Brian De Palma with the lipstick-on-a-pig accusation; that he’s slumming it with his material, using his supremely artistic skills to direct gutter trash screenplays. But De Palma has never been so guilty of that as Park Chan-wook is with STOKER, a movie akin to watching Jose Andres cook at McDonald’s. And it kind of pisses me off how stupid Wentworth Miller’s script is, because Park does his damnedest to elevate this thing to art.
And sure, some of the images are gorgeous, the editing lyrical, and the hyper-mixed foley work volcanic (the sounds of a pencil being sharpened, a hard-boiled egg cracking, and a bedspread being removed are louder than car engines) — but it’s all so head-slammingly pointless that I’m angered by the waste of talent on display. It’s hard to know if Mia Wasikowska is really any good; she’s been fine before but as the emo-goth psycho at the center of this ridiculous story, she’s hopeless. And unfortunately she’ll never be able to wipe off her resume the risible scene of her shower masturbation at the thrilling memory of an up-close-witnessed murder. Nicole Kidman phones it in, once again playing Nicole Kidman. But the worst offender is Matthew Goode, obviously cast as the central villain because of his absolutely unthreatening appearance — but I think that choice was abominable. It’s not just that he’s unintimidating; it’s that he’s an absolute joke: a J. Crew model posing as an actor an ensuring that no scene in which he is present will have any effect, either satirical or emotional.
OLDBOY was a hell of a film: rich with provocative ideas, overflowing with filmmaking bravado, and singular enough to inspire a Spike Lee remake. (And as part of a trilogy about vengeance, showed that Park is capable of exploring that subject with depth and prowess). But STOKER is almost the opposite; it has nothing to say about anything, and as beautiful as it is at times, it’s destined to be forgotten quickly, ignored fiercely, or remembered sadly as the piece of shit Park had to do in order to break into English-language cinema, like the best-looking version of fraternity hazing ever put on film.