Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

13 September 2013


It is funny to me how certain things can push me in the direction of liking a movie or disliking a movie. Of course, a movie is not just itself, right? A movie is also how we happen to feel the day we watch it, or the expectations of greatness we bring to it, or the way other people have built it into something. Our enjoyment is also deeply affected by anything we happen to be going through at the time we watch a movie, and how we continue to feel about a movie can have as much to do with specific associations from the first time we watched that film as it does with anything "good" or "bad" about the movie.

(I really liked It's Complicated at a time when my ex-boyfriend and I were trying to get back together and make things work. The film resonated with me, whereas when I saw Love Actually I spent the whole time cringing at its treacly sentiments. But this kind of thing is totally arbitrary, really.)

What I am trying to say is that Stoker is really not that good. 

But.... I was really excited for Park Chan-wook's first English-language feature.

I love the cast: Nicole Kidman, Matthew Goode, Phyllis Somerville, and Jacki Weaver, especially. And the opening credit-sequence is kind of wonderful.

And then the rest of the movie just isn't.  

Stoker is slow, and it is creepy, and it is beautifully shot – with Park's typical gorgeously picturesque blood-spatterings, neck-breakings, and death throes.

Ms. Weaver in Stoker
The movie could be filled with tension, and I think Park is trying to be very suspenseful, but the characters are so washed out, they feel so hollow, that I just didn't care about any of them, and it's fairly difficult to have a lot of feelings about what is going to happen when none of the characters seem like real people and I don't actually care what happens to any of them. As it turns out, every person in this movie is a homicidal psychopath. So I wasn't very invested.

As it happened, though, I was kind of into this movie for quite a while. And this was because of the awesome cast, the beautiful photography, Clint Mansell's score, and the fact that the movie was Park's. I gave Stoker a lot of leeway. But by its end, I had had enough of its constant delays and numerous tiny cliffhangers. I needed something finally to happen... and nothing ever did.