With Chan-wook Park’s ‘Stoker,’ Nicole Kidman does an about-face
Nicole Kidman has been pushing in some unusual directions lately. But that adventurousness takes on an entirely new dimension in Chan-wook Park’s “Stoker,” a movie focusing on an unstable woman who lives in a Gothic house (Kidman), her moody daughter (Mia Wasikowska) and her mysterious brother in-law (Matthew Goode), who shows up after her husband passes away.
Kidman plays Evie, a woman who is hardly an ideal mother and may be overlooking or even enabling some pretty macabre behavior. It’s a repressed aristocratic role that’s 180-degrees from her part as a brassy, working-class sexpot in Lee Daniels’ swampy melodrama “The Paperboy.”
“I probably won’t get two characters more diverse than this,” the actress said with a laugh about “Stoker,” which she began shooting just one week after “Paperboy.” “They really are the two extremes.” (You can watch excerpts of the interview with Kidman, Goode and Wasikowska in the adjacent video.)
Without spoiling some of its surprises, Park’s film, his first in English, is a chilly, stylized and sometimes grisly look at family and youth. Like his Korean-language movies “Old Boy” and “Thirst,” it both contains violence and offers a meta-exploration of it.
“The big theme of the film is where does evil really come from,” Goode said of the Wentworth Miller-penned “Stoker,” which hits theaters March 1. “It’s the idea of nature and nurture and whether there’s a predisposition in the blood lines.” (Wasikowska, for her part, sees it as a film with something to say about childhood, a coming-of age story about a girl who’s “isolated and introverted, and this is her sexual awakening … [except] it comes in the form her uncle.”)
The film’s engagement with the question of the role upbringing plays in creating a murderer has an eerie timeliness in the wake of the Newtown shootings and the “I Am Adam Lanza’s Mother” piece it spawned.
But Goode, who said that he felt owning a handgun should require passing a psychoanalytic test, said some of the early reactions to the Sundance Film Festival premiere that called attention to the movie’s baroque elements looked at the issue more than the movie. “I’m kind of wondering why they didn’t take into account the filmmaking itself,” he said, referring to Park’s visual rigor. “It’s just a reaction of ‘I hate violence on-screen.’”
Kidman offered a somewhat more shrugging reply to the polarized reaction. “I’m used to that,” she deadpanned.
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