“When South Korean genre iconoclast Park Chan-wook decided to bring his peculiar gifts to a Stateside production, anything could have happened—and anything pretty much does in STOKER, a splendidly demented gumbo of Hitchcock thriller, American Gothic fairy tale and a contemporary kink all Park’s own. Led by a brilliant Mia Wasikowska as an introverted teenager whose personal and sexual awakening arrives with the unraveling of a macabre family mystery, this exquisitely designed and scored pic will bewitch many viewers. When morbid-minded honor student India (Wasikowska) loses her beloved father, Richard (Dermot Mulroney), in an apparent freak car accident, the ink is barely dry on the death certificate when her globe-trotting uncle Charles (Goode, his unhurried charm and preppy handsomeness put to their best use since 2005’s MATCH POINT), whom she’s never met before, arrives to stay. Before you can say “Shadow of a Doubt,” this urbanely handsome “Uncle Charlie” is arousing India’s suspicions (and, it’s implied, other things besides) as he swiftly cements himself in the household by seducing her brittle, emotionally susceptible mother, Evelyn (Nicole Kidman). Shortly afterward, their housekeeper disappears without notice; ditto India’s meddlesome aunt (a brief but tangy turn from Oscar nominee Jacki Weaver), who appears to know troubling truths about the intruder, dismissed out of hand by Evelyn. Material this wild demands actors fully committed to the cause, and Park has found them, particularly in his two female leads. Kidman, here extending her commendable record of counterintuitive auteur collaboration, has such form in the area of passive-aggressive ice queens that her work here shouldn’t surprise, but the performance gets more bravely unhinged as it goes along, culminating in a spectacular Mommie Dearest tirade against her daughter that seems ripe for future impressions. Still, it’s Wasikowska’s film, and she shoulders it with witty aplomb: equal parts Alice in Wonderland and Wednesday Addams, her India is in constant, silent argument with the world around her.”—Guy Lodge, Variety. R. 98 Min.
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