'Stoker': Shadow of an homage, infused with violence ★★ 1/2

A young woman's reddish-brown hair, in close-up, dissolves into an overhead shot of wild reeds, eased this way and that by the wind. "Stoker" would be nothing without such flourishes. The film swims in them, and cares little for conventional narrative tension.

Photographed in Tennessee but set in an indistinct American location near nowhere in particular, the movie follows characters as they glide through a pristine void, eyeing each other amid faultlessly art-directed surroundings before getting stabbed or shot or doing the shooting or stabbing.

The psychosexual cross-currents flow not so much as they do in life, but the way they do in a Park Chan-Wook movie. This is what we have here. "Stoker" comes from the South Korean director whose "Vengeance Trilogy" ("Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance," "Oldboy" and "Lady Vengeance") won admirers around the world, as did Park's vampire picture, "Thirst," my favorite of his so far.

See it if you haven't: It's pretty great, and it'll help you forget "Twilight" ever happened.

Park's latest stakes out new territory for the director as a gun for hire, filming a script by Wentworth Miller deeply indebted to the 1943 Hitchcock picture "Shadow of a Doubt" (speaking of great). Like Joseph Cotten's blithe Uncle Charlie in that film, "Stoker" casts Matthew Goode as the mysterious visiting uncle of our hostess and narrator, India, played by Mia Wasikowska. With her father, Charlie's brother, recently dead and buried, 18-year-old India can't help but notice that her mother (Nicole Kidman) makes goo-goo eyes and squeals every time Uncle Charlie is near. India has her own feelings for this man.

Something's gotta give! Densely plotted, though not exactly full of surprises, "Stoker" nudges India toward all sorts of forbidden fruit and trials of fire. Wasikowska is a fine, intriguing actress, though I'm not sure anyone could make actual psychological sense of this woman. Nobody on screen — not Kidman, not Goode, not Wasikowska, not Jacki Weaver as Auntie Gin — seems entirely at home in the chosen (or guessed-at) style. And yet, as it becomes more and more delirious in its explanations of Charlie's past, "Stoker" at least gives you a few images to remember, such as the precisely judged long shot of one unlucky character staggering across a lonely road with a pair of garden shears sticking out of his skull.

mjphillips@tribune.com

'Stoker' -- 2 1/2 stars
MPAA rating:
R (for disturbing violent and sexual content)
Running time: 1:40
Opens: Friday

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
Related Content
  • 10 movies to see this winter

    10 movies to see this winter

    Tribune movie critic Michael Phillips picks 10 movies you should see in the coming months.

  • Top 50 superhero movies of the last 10 years

    Top 50 superhero movies of the last 10 years

    Since 2002 there have been arguably 50 movies about superheroes. Arguably, because genre is tricky; it's often variations on a theme, and some variations are less obvious than others. ("Star Wars," for instance, a bit of a space western, is no one's picture of the western genre.) Oh, also: Because...

  • Oscars 2013: Red carpet arrivals

    Oscars 2013: Red carpet arrivals

    Jessica Chastain, Amy Adams, Anne Hathaway, Kerry Washington, Hugh Jackman and more stars arrive at the Dolby Theatre for the 85th Academy Awards. By Jevon Phillips. Winners | Red carpet | Show highlights | Quotes | Backstage | Winners' room | Best & worst moments | Best dressed | Worst dressed...

  • Best movies of 2012

    Best movies of 2012

    Tribune movie critic Michael Phillips picks the top 10 movies of the year.

  • Advice for The 606 neighbors

    Advice for The 606 neighbors

    Strangers whooshing by in view of your living room isn't a new problem in Chicago, where the CTA’s elevated tracks can provide a view of residents' balconies, backyards or even bathrooms. Ashley Marchi just moved to one such apartment.

  • When The 606 is your neighbor

    When The 606 is your neighbor

    John Knoerle admits he’s the “designated curmudgeon” of the neighborhood, but when it comes to The Bloomingdale Trail, slated to open practically in his front yard, he thinks a little grumpiness is justified.

  • Why would Rebel Wilson lie about her age?

    Why would Rebel Wilson lie about her age?

    On Monday, "Pitch Perfect 2″ actress Rebel Wilson took to Twitter after what she called the "shady Australian press" claimed she was not 29, but 36. Oh, and that her name wasn't really Rebel Wilson.

  • Photos: 68th annual Cannes Film Festival

    Photos: 68th annual Cannes Film Festival

Comments
Loading