Better To Make Choices While You Still Have Them: Choose Stoker
Stoker has to be one of the most uncomfortable and thought-provoking films that Mia Wasikowska has ever done. The Australian-born artist has never shied away from characters that have been dealt a hard hand in life but her plunge into this specifically dark rabbit hole finds her beneath cold waters that feel extreme even for the woman who made Maps To The Stars and Alice In Wonderland. Stoker is at times dizzying, at times maddening, at times silent, and at times, so frightening your neck will be stiff as a scarecrow by the time it’s over. It reminds me deeply of Cory Finley’s Thoroughbreds, Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan, and Brian De Palma’s Passion. It is a slow crawling exotic beast of a film that at its center is about a man’s narcissistic love for himself, women's psychological and sexual relationship with brutality, and the most suffocatingly customary thing in the world: People who won’t leave you alone.
India Stoker (Mia Wasikowska in what I really do see as the most sexually empowering performance of the past decade for reasons I’ll get into later) is a quiet 18-year-old woman whose loving father Richard dies in a violent car accident leaving her with her vain and unbalanced mother Evelyn (Nicole Kidman) in the large mansion she grew up in. The arrival of Charlie (Matthew Goode), Richard’s brother and India’s uncle whom she never heard of arrive for an indefinite stay much to Evelyn’s flirtatious delight and India’s chagrins.
India’s not a happy person but she’s not unhappy either. She’s someone who has a very honest perspective of the world. The love she felt for her father was very rare because while she does miss him and is capable of love, she doesn’t really need people. Certainly not fake people like Evelyn whose behavior at the funeral reception indicates that keeping up appearances is important for her. Maybe it’s a form of denial or just a way of dealing with her grief but it reads to India as deeply ingenuine and senses a similar frame of mind within her uncle.
She senses him genuinely wanting to bond with her but she sees it’s out of a need for control. Charlie speaks very calmly but happily in a manner that’s not insulting but indicates that he’s better than people think he is. Isn’t it just the worst feeling in the world when you feel so tired and drained from daily life and other people have this supposed positive energy that they expect you to reciprocate? It’s this entitlement other people can have for you to perform for them to make them feel special and in control.
Take for instance when Charlie meets India at the top of the stairs.
Charlie: Do you know why you're feeling disadvantaged right now?
India: Because I didn’t know you existed until today?
Charlie: Because you're standing below me.
“You should give me more than you have within you because you should feel lucky to be around me.” That’s what Charlie’s attempts to get close to India are really about. The truth is you just can’t escape having to endure specific kinds of interactions with people and having to “sing for your supper” (or) “suck for your supper” as I so bluntly call it because I’m a firm believer in calling a spade a spade) is just as much an international language as French or Italian is.
India and Charlie talk back and forth with each other but they never use exact words to say what they feel. The way they glance at one another, the way India walks past Charlie on the spiral stairs as he stares at her, the sound of the glass of red wine moving across the dinner table as he pushes it towards her, all of that is language. Sometimes more can be said with silence and even when the two are speaking, they never say precisely what they really mean. None of the dialogue really feels like dialogue, it feels like these conversations that these people accidentally fall into. It’s weird and perverted and messed up and powerful and beautiful all at the same time.
So many of us have more rage inside us than we care to admit. It’s a rage that comes from feeling fidgety, tense, and anxious. It’s a rage that is born out of the realization that the people who feel entitled to HAVE you WON’T go ever go away. Why is the literal sound of silence so liberating to so many of us? What happened that makes us perhaps too comfortable with being alone?
The frosty wall India has between herself and Charlie supposedly starts to come down after he saves her from rape and helps her kill her attacker. I’m not supporting or promoting violence but anyone who says they don’t have fantasies that are even just a little violent towards the most horrid of people (Even if it’s people you don’t know personally) is either lying or they haven’t lived AT ALL. India Stoker is who I think represents true sexual empowerment because it has NOTHING to do with what she says and EVERYTHING to do with how she feels. How she feels in relation to her own body, what she does with it, how she values it, how she takes care of it and how she rewards it.
After she and Charlie bury her attacker, she takes a shower and as the blood starts sliding down her skin to the surface of the tiles, she masturbates to the memory of the murder and climaxes to the sound of Charlie breaking her attacker's neck.
Someone so foul and so entitled and so evil meeting such a violent end turns her on faster than flipping a light switch and I don’t blame her at all. Is it extreme? Depends on what your life has been like. Is it over the top? Maybe but it happened.
Not that India has any plans of being indebted to Charlie. She acts as though she’s in good standing with him and I must say she is convincing. The smiles don’t seem fake, her tone is happier but her voice still has the same delicate softness to it. It’s a happy voice you never want to hear when you cross her. It’s the lion slurping his tongue in front of the juicy lamb right before he pounces. India isn’t a pouncer but if you make it necessary, she’ll use her teeth.
Of course, not every bite of new information tastes like victory. The circumstances surrounding Richard’s abusive childhood with Charlie eventually come to light and by then even Evelyn has nothing left to give. She clearly resents India for being someone she could never be even though that’s what she thought she wanted all along.
India turns on the kitchen light to Evelyn having sat in the dark in silence.
Evelyn: You know, I often wondered why we have children in the first place and the conclusion I’ve come to is that at some point in our lives, we realize things are….their screwed up beyond repair,
(Sighs in defeat)
So we decide to start again. Wipe the slate clean. Start fresh. And we have children, little carbon copies we can turn to and say “you will do what I could not.” “You will succeed where I have failed.”
Because we want someone to get it right this time.
(Face slowly turns bitter)
But not me.
(She turns her head slowly to India with eyes of quiet rage)
Personally speaking, I can’t wait to watch life tear you apart.
(India crosses her arms with a confident indifference that says, “Life already tore me apart. YOU tore me apart. I don’t need you. I’m a woman now. Actually, I’ve been a woman for a very long time now.” Pathetic tears pour down Evelyn’s tired puffy eyes of multiple disappointments.)
INDIA………..who ARE you? You were supposed to love me, weren’t you?
No Evelyn sweetie, I don’t think that’s how it works. So many people were supposed to do so many things, there’s never a guarantee. Stoker is America 2022 in its portrayal of how those of us who don’t have hope anymore interact with people we don’t want to and then what it feels like when we look to escapism. India, like so many Americans, feels powerless because THEY ARE. Those who DO have the highest powers all have the exact same choice laid in front of them. They all have the opportunity to do what they’re SUPPOSED to but they don’t. Some of them stand on screens and yawn in our faces, but others shine. They make fighting look more important than you ever imagined it to look. Which group is yours?
You either have hope for a country where women have reproductive rights, where children can go about their day without getting shot in the head by an AR15, OR mentally, you’ve reached the point India gets to by Stoker's end: Get whatever money you have, get in your little car, drive to the airport and go somewhere else. If things are worse instead of better by 2024, I’ll be thankful to be like India, to make choices while I still have choices. Maybe I’ll go to Ireland………… I LIKE Ireland 😉😉😉😉😉😉😉😉😉😉😉😉😉😉😉😉😉😉😉😉😉😉😉😉😉
Stoker (2013). Plex.tv. (2013, February 28). Retrieved July 17, 2022, from https://watch.plex.tv/movie/stoker