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Movie Review: 'Stoker' -- 3 stars

Nicole Kidman and Mia Wasikowska in

Nicole Kidman and Mia Wasikowska in "Stoker" Credit: Nicole Kidman and Mia Wasikowska in "Stoker"

3 stars
Directed by Park Chan-wook
Starring Mia Wasikowska, Nicole Kidman, Matthew Goode
Rated R

The visuals tell the story in Korean filmmaker Park Chan-wook's gaudy "Stoker." It's a hypersexual coming-of-age psychodrama - the logical next step from this master of operatic violence ("Oldboy," "Thirst").

Park's English-language debut carves out its own unique territory - a design-heavy approach to conveying the cauldron of emotions simmering inside 18-year-old protagonist India (Mia Wasikowska), who is struggling to cope with the tragic death of her father (Dermot Mulroney), her self-obsessed mother (Nicole Kidman) and the mysterious, previously unknown uncle Charlie (Matthew Goode), who moves into their home.

India is a quiet loner type, but as played by the always game Wasikowska, she's far from the usual quirky outcast. This is a deeply troubled young woman, petrified into almost complete silence. Her pain is deeply felt, even if it's hard to carve your way through it.

The movie is a carnival of sinister images, combined to create a demented portrait of hormones run wild: Giant spiders crawling around; a frozen head in the family basement; images of violence and sex congealed in India's head. The protagonist silently, secretly watches as her mother attempts to seduce her newfound uncle. Fantasy blurs with reality as our perspective is informed by India's point of view.

While "Stoker" might sound like an opaque, heightened horror show, the reality is quite different. Your teenage experience was probably different from India's, but the movie is driven by the strong feelings that inform those years, the sense that life is a melodrama and you're the star.

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