Release Date: March 1, 2013
Runtime: 99 minutes
Studio: Fox Searchlight
Director: Chan-wook Park
Cast: Mia Wasikowska; Nicole Kidman; Matthew Goode; Jacki Weaver; Dermot Mulroney
This is a nasty little number. The first English-language film from Chan-wook Park, director of “Oldboy,” is a modern gothic nightmare that leaves you thinking, “Thank God that’s not MY family!”
India Stoker (Mia Wasikowska) is an introverted, withdrawn teenager…sort of a 2000’s Carrie. She lives with her seemingly loving mom, Evie (Nicole Kidman) in one of those off-the-beaten-path mansions that certainly don’t exist back East. Her dad (Dermot Mulroney – nice to see him) has just died in a car accident at the outset of the movie and at the wake, India is introduced to the long-lost Uncle Charlie (Matthew Goode) she never knew she had. From the very first “hello,” we know something ain’t quite right with Uncle Charlie. That’s to be expected, I guess, since something ain’t quite right with India for that matter. To say anything further would be a spoiler, so I’m going to stop with the plot synopsis now. But be aware, the film is very deliberately paced, which might turn off some audience members used to quick editing and fast cuts, but if you stick with it, it will hook you about 20 minutes or so in. Once it gets going, however, actor Wentworth Miller’s (“Prison Break”) doozy of a script brings on the jaw dropping.
DP Chung-hoon Chung’s camera moves languidly across country landscapes and interior scenes, building not so much suspense, but a feeling of unease in the viewer. This is a movie full of superior technical achievement, and some of the scene transitions, while kind of calling attention to themselves, nevertheless are gorgeously edited and blend together beautifully (one to look out for is when India is brushing her mom’s hair and the scene transitions to blades of grass in a field – gorgeous!)
Mia Wasikowska (Alice in “Alice in Wonderland”; “The Kids Are All Right”) is suitably distant, but with that look in her eye that says “I’m keen to everything going on around me so don’t play!” Nicole Kidman hasn’t looked this good in a looooong time. Yes, her acting is flawless and her Evie has an icy demeanor that won’t win her any Mother of the Year awards anytime soon, but I was struck by how radiant she appeared. Her natural red hair is in full bloom and she seems comfortable and mature here. Matthew Goode is excellent as the weirdo Uncle Charlie. His perfect, J. Crew looks exude charm and, at the same time, menace, which perfectly suits the character. In supporting roles, recent Oscar nominee Jacki Weaver shows up in an extended cameo as an aunt, and Mulroney gets a few flashback scenes as India’s father.
So, the mystery is intriguing and the performances are tops, but, as I mentioned before, this film is quite the technical achievement across the board. A carefully constructed, impeccably mounted genre piece of particular interest to moviegoers who like their movies twisted.