"He's hearing the voice of God through a crossword puzzle!"
Ok, I know that I'm going to take some flak over this review. Some people have called my tastes in movies into question in the past. But, for the past 6 years, I have considered myself somewhat of a student of film. But not just the typical things that critics look for in movies (acting + story + cinematography + etc.), although I love that stuff. But I look at the messages that a film sends out too.
So, in this review, I'll spend a short amount of time reviewing the actual film, and then concentrate more on the three major themes that I felt ran throughout.
Lady In the Water
Running Time: 1 hr. 50 mins.
Directed By: M. Night Shymalan
Starring: Paul Giamatti, Bryce Dallas Howard
Ok, much like my review of Superman Returns, I want to start by saying i am approaching this movie with a nominal amount of bias. I love movies, and for about four years during, and after, high school wanted to be a director. I obsessed over Stephen Spielberg and Alfred Hitchcock. I watched everything they made and read everything I could about them. So, in 1999, when Shymalan came out with Sixth Sense, I felt as though the next great genius had shown up. I love every one of his movies. Ok, Ok...Unbreakable was sweet up until the end. And the Village was predictable. In fact, I guessed the ending 1/4th of the way into the movie. But they are absolute works of art! Shymalan is a master of the camera! He has an amazing eye! And even his worst film (which most critics are saying is this one) is still better than the rest of the crappy remakes and sequels that hollywood is churning out these days. So, with that in mind, here is my review...
What follows is a SPOILER FREE review.
If you haven't heard anything about this movie, here's a brief rundown of the plot. Cleveland Heep (Giamatti) is the building superintendent of an apartment complex. He's a quiet guy with a tuttering problem who mostly keeps to himself and seems all and around like a pretty sad and tired guy. One night, he spots somone spashing about in the water of the pool at the center of the complex. He approaches the young lady named Story (Howard) only to discover that she is a narf, or sea nymph. What follows throughout the rest of the film is the telling of Story's...well...story and how Cleveland, as well as other residents of the complex, must ban together in order to save her from the evil Scrunt and help her return home.
There is a big to-do about this movie in the press for a number of reasons. 1) Aparrantly, Shymalan and Disney, who had made his previous four films, had a falling out over the script to this picture. I read an article in TIME describing it briefly, but as I understand, there is an entire book about it, called The Man Who Heard Voices: Or, How M. Night Shyamalan Risked His Career on a Fairy Tale. 2) This movie is a little bit of a departure from Shymalan's previous bait-and-switch formula. But, as I said at the top, this is a spoiler free review. So, let's get down to the nitty gritty...
So, what was good?
-Giamatti is superb. I simply do not understand why this man has not been awarded an Oscar yet. He is a master of the everyman. The way he portrays Cleveland as a broken man who has abandoned the world, yet is awakened upon meeting Story is superb. It's almost as if you can see hope appear in his soul. Please, AMPAS, give him an Oscar!
-Bryce Dallas Howard is a star on the rise. This woman can definitely play drama. I'm very interested to see a little more of her range in the coming years. She plays the part of Gwen Stacey in next summer's Spider-man 3. So, you know, she'll need to find some sort of major motion picture vehicle that a lot of people will see to get her name out there.
-If you're any type of "film as art" person, then you have to love Symalan's camera placement. He explores new point-of-views in a way that reminds me of early Spielberg. The way he sets up shots is beautiful. He's also a very suspenseful filmaker in the sense of holding a shot for that extra second or two. I think that, when he does that, he draws the fear out of you. Rather than moviemakers who show every scary thing, who try to put the fear in you.
-I love the supporting cast in this film. All of the residents of the apartment complex are so utterly charming that it makes you want to live there.
-There was quite a bit of exposition. Part of the charm of the movie is that the characters find out about the story right along with the audience. I actually enjoyed this aspect of the story. Most people won't.
-By departing from his bait-and-switch formula of film making, Shymalan has painted himself into a corner. You either give the audience what they've come to expect and here them cry out, "Predictable!" Or, you give them something different and they cry, "Lame!" It's a no win.
And so, to Lady In the Water, I give the honor of being awarded with a certified 3 Yarmulke™ rating.
I think that this is a must-see, but maybe not an opening night. Great message. Great acting. But it may be too different for most moviegoers to embrace.
Whoops! Looks like I didn't talk about the themes! I'll post again tomorrow with those!