‘Oldboy’ director Park Chan-Wook opts for drab melodrama in his US debut


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Director: Park Chan-Wook
Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Nicole Kidman, Matthew Goode
Time Out rating:
Japanese title: Innocent Garden

From John Woo (Hard Target) to Wong Kar-Wai (My Blueberry Nights) to Kim Jee-Woon (this year’s The Last Stand), it seems every Asian filmmaker (bar Ang Lee) falls flat on their face when they head for Hollywood. But few have fallen quite so far as Oldboy and Lady Vengeance director Park Chan-Wook, whose English language debut is a pretty but directionless mishmash of gothic fairytale and coming-of-age clichés sporting some truly cringeworthy performances.

Mia Wasikowska plays India Stoker, the flighty, cosseted daughter of a wealthy Southern family, whose father has died in a car wreck leaving her mum, Evie (Nicole Kidman), in charge of the estate. But at the funeral, trouble arrives in the form of Uncle Charlie (Matthew Goode), whose interest in both women feels rather more than familial.

The script by actor Wentworth Miller was sold under a pseudonym, presumably so that his moderate fame as the lead in TV’s mediocre Prison Break didn’t put off any potential buyers. But the real question is why he chose to reclaim it. This is a truly shoddy piece of writing, predictable and contrived, and so mired in cliché as to render Park’s intermittently interesting visual touches – vibrant colours, extreme close-ups, ornate animation – entirely redundant.

But it’s the performances that really grate, from Wasikowska’s drifting, characterless heroine via Kidman’s tediously shrill mental mother to Goode’s tediously sleazy villain. The result is a drab, mannered melodrama trapped uncomfortably between horror and family saga, potentially interesting in execution but relentlessly tedious in outcome.

Stoker opens at select cinemas nationwide on May 31

By Tom Huddleston
Please note: All information is correct at the time of writing but is subject to change without notice.


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