Rorschach on DVD: Stoker

Earlier this year I announced my goal of seeing every new release to come out this year in 1,200 theaters or more.  Well, the year is now officially half over I’ve basically stayed true to that (Damn you, The Peeples!), but one unfortunate consequence of that fact is I’ve had to miss a lot of non-major releases that I would have really liked to see.  Well, we’ve finally reached the point where those smaller movies are starting to come out on DVD, and as a result I’m starting up a new segment to catch myself up on some of those humbler films I’ve missed out on this year.  In consideration of the reduction of my free time courtesy of my new full time internship, I’ll be writing these reviews in a much more abbreviated and less structured manner than my usual reviews.  Now it’s time to kick things off with the very atypical dysfunctional family drama, Stoker.  

MV5BMjI3MTM5ODI5MV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMjE1Mzc4OA@@._V1_SX214_Stoker had always been a bit of a mystery to me based the promotional material.  At times, it seemed like a Carrie-esque mother/daughter power struggle.  At other times, it seemed like a darker version of Leon: The Professional.  In the end, it’s a bit of both with a hefty injection of the sudden violence of Drive and the visual artistry of The Tree of Life.  I was very impressed with the performances here by Matthew Goode and Mia Wasikowska, the former of which I had never even heard of before this movie.  I also thought the story was as compelling as it was unpredictable, even if it takes a little while to get off the ground.  There were a couple elements that I thought would develop into clichés, but one by one each of those clichés was broken in an increasingly brutal fashion.  The movie really does make you feel like you’re watching something you truly haven’t seen before; something which it seems like fewer and fewer movies are able to accomplish nowadays.

I’ve never made an effort to hide the fact that I don’t really care for heavily symbolic art house film making.  As a movie critic, I recognize that admitting this fact opens me up to all sorts of comments regarding how I didn’t understand a director’s message, or how it went way over my head.  When I cited this reason to explain my intense dislike for the ending scenes of 2001: A Space Odyssey, that’s exactly what happened.  In spite of that, I’m going to continue to be honest here.  Any time someone describes a movie as “beautifully shot”, I picture an abundance of cryptic voice overs paired with random evocative imagery.  Stoker is filled with this kind of device, and occasionally it works very well.  More often than not, however, it feels like director Chan-Woo Park is breaking into a sort of cinematic slam poetry.  I’m not saying it’s not interesting or well done, I just typically enjoy anything that tries this hard to prove how artistic it is.  Then again, what other response would you expect from a left-brained movie reviewer?

Even with my issues regarding the Avant Garde filming style, I wouldn’t consider Stoker a “bad” movie.  In fact, I’d say that between the artistic depth and the predictability-defying plot, Stoker is an impressive film; it’s just an impressive film that will not connect with most audiences.  If you’re a fan of highly symbolic, abstract film making and okay with an extremely dark tone, this is one you won’t want to miss.  If not, then you’ll probably end up being frustrated by the movie’s initially deliberate pacing and conspicuous stylization.

The Verdict: 7.0/10 – Good

+ Truly disturbing performances by Wasikowska and Goode

+ An absorbingly dark plot that defies predictability

– The heavy use of symbolism and overal art house feel didn’t connect with me at all

– There are a lot of things left unexplained, particularly the bizarre ending

Critical Consensus:

IMDb:  7.1/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 67 %

Metacritic: 58/100

Other Reviews: 

Filmhipster: 90%

Rhino’s Horror: 86/100

Cinematic Corner: 85/100

Keith and the Movies: 4/5

FlixChatter: 4/5

Black Sheep Reviews: 4/5

Terry Malloy’s Pigeon Coop: 4/5

Keith and the Movies: 4/5

Dan the Man Movies Reviews: 7/10

Fast Film Reviews: 2/5

Average: 7.7/10 – Superior

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About r361n4

I'm a student at the University of Washington Majoring Business. I've always loved movies and my goal is to work on the financial side of the film industry. Until then though, I figure I'll spare my friends from my opinions and shout them from a digital mountaintop for anyone who's interested. After all, if a tree falls in a forest and nobody blogs about it, does it really happen?
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6 Responses to Rorschach on DVD: Stoker

  1. Very nicely put. We seem to agree on this one. Not bad, but it just didn’t connect with me. Felt like it was trying too hard. LOVED the cast, though.

  2. Nice write up Andy. I actually felt that the symbolism and metaphors in this were a little too obvious and the audience is slapped round the face with them a little too often. Having said that, I really enjoyed it, there were some great scenes and really strong performances. It felt very Hitchcockian but also very fresh at the same time as we don’t seem to really get those kind of films anymore. And thanks for the link man!

  3. keith7198 says:

    Nice review. You bring up some really good points. I had fun with this flick but it wasn’t perfect. To me the big highlight was the performance from Goode. Man he was…well…good.

  4. sati says:

    Thanks for the link, glad you liked the movie! You never heard of Goode? Oh, you should definitely see A Single Man – he is great in it and the movie is incredibly beautiful.

    • r361n4 says:

      Mental Click! I have seen and absoutely loved A Single Man, I just didn’t realize that was Goode… I still think Firth not winning the Oscar for that role is prime time oscar injustice

      • sati says:

        YEY, you’ve seen it ! 🙂 I love Firth in King’s Speech and I think it was a great win, but I found his work in A Single Man to be much more complex and courageous.

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