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dir Park Chan-wook
scr Wentworth Miller
prd Michael Costigan, Ridley Scott, Tony Scott
with Mia Wasikowska, Matthew Goode, Nicole Kidman, Jacki Weaver, Phyllis Somerville, Dermot Mulroney, Lucas Till, Alden Ehrenreich, Ralph Brown, Judith Godreche, Lauren E Roman, Michael T Flynn
release US/UK 1.Mar.13
13/US Fox 1h38
A family affair: Goode and Wasikowska
SUNDANCE FILM FEST
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
Korean filmmaker Park brings his stunning visual style to this English-language debut, transforming a fairly straightforward Hitchcockian story into a colourful bundle of film and literary references. And heightened, engaging performances add compelling intensity, creating a seriously deranged family thriller.
After the death of her father (Mulroney) in a car crash, India Stoker (Wasikowska) no longer has anyone to temper the strained relationship with her needy mother Evie (Kidman). Then charming, handsome Uncle Charlie (Goode) turns up at the funeral to mourn his brother's passing. And move in. He clearly has eyes for Evie, and she is flattered by his attention, especially since her late husband had been ignoring her to spend time with India. But it slowly becomes apparent that Charlie is actually after India.
Miller's script is packed with references to cinema and literature (including the family name), blending Shakespearean family issues with an interloper who seems to be the reincarnation of Robert Mitchum's iconic killer from The Night of the Hunter (there's even a close-up of his strangely tattoo-free knuckles). Park's camera prowls through the lush settings catching tiny details in the furnishings, nature and of course the faces of actors who are experts at revealing hidden layers within their characters.
Wasikowska holds the film together with a sensitive, complex performance as an observant young woman who is just beginning to discover her own feminine power. Her inner strength scares off school bullies, but makes her mother feel even more insecure, and Kidman adds a haunted, conflicted tone to Evie that's sometimes a bit scary. Opposite them, Goode is a seductive, almost too-beautiful predator. And smaller side roles for Weaver (as an auntie) and Somerville (as the fed-up housekeeper) add to the tangy atmosphere.
It's the way Park swirls every element together that makes the film so unnervingly gripping. Elements like the ubiquitous spiders sometimes feel like one metaphor too many, but they add witty touches to the haunted-house setting, which builds to a crescendo during a staggeringly sensuous piano duet. The whole film is a combination of lusty and murderous urges, usually both at the same time. And the ways these fragile but steely characters deal with them is surprisingly involving.
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© 2013 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall|
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