The English-language debut of Park Chan-wook (Oldboy) is a fascinating if sometimes ungainly hybrid, a gory Gothic Frankenstein: It’s a cyborg, but that’s OK. The script, by Prison Break’s Wentworth Miller, is a trifle, but Park spins ornate variations on its clumsy themes. India Stoker (Mia Wasikowska) is an alabaster wisp, withdrawn but eerily self-possessed, like an eggshell waiting to be cracked. Enter charismatic Uncle Charles (Matthew Goode), a globe-trotting dandy whose dark side is almost comically apparent. Goode’s sly malevolence teeters on the edge of camp, but Park strikes a perfect balance, using Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra’s gloriously overwrought “Summer Wine” as a key to the movie’s aesthetic. The movie’s best scenes are virtually plotless, especially a hothouse piano duet between India and Charles that rivals Oldboy’s hallway scene in sheer mastery. As the mother who realizes too late what’s been happening in her house, Nicole Kidman has a bum part, all porcelain placidity and slowly dawning horror, but Park’s direction shows little of the tone-deaf quality common to directors making their first film in a foreign tongue. Stoker works mostly as a mood piece, but what a mood it is.
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