Lady in the Water
directed by M. Night Shyamalan
starring: Paul Giamatti, Bryce Dallas Howard, Bob Balaban
M. Night Shyamalan gets a lot of attention as a ‘hack’ these days – while many hail him as a filmmaking genius, there are many that write him off as a one-trick pony whose stories rely entirely on a twist ending that redefines the entire film (forgetting that “Signs” did not have a twist ending, but rather a deux ex machina one). “The Village” was considered weak by a majority of critics and fans, and now “Lady in the Water” is suffering an even worse thrashing, many even calling it among the worst films they’d ever seen.
I don’t consider Shyamalan’s films very rewatchable, I even agree that they are rather pretentious, but throughout each of his films is a deliberate craft, great casting, and more than anything, true ‘movie moments’ that show M. Night is probably just as interested in being the new Spielberg as he is being the new Hitchcock as he is often called.
So I’m gonna say it right now – I really really liked this film, and I know I’m in the minority. I actually even thought “The Village” was somewhat interesting and had a bad rap as well. Why? I think people have conditioned themselves to his films to wait for an ending that they expect to no less than blow them away, ignoring the actual film in the process. As well I think some are on to his bag of tricks – every character’s little quirk does come back to mean something later.
“Lady in the Water” is a fairytale set in a completely mundane environment which no character leaves at any point in the film. I think right here people find something they can’t get over. Ridiculous plots and themes are acceptable to people when its in a mystical land with demons and winged beasts and elves, but unacceptable when itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a plain old apartment complex whose central character is the landlord. But it works for me, everything unfolds nicely, the reasons these characters so blindly accept the strange goings on, the complaints about it are all moot – It’s a fairytale, and it is not meant to be taken seriously. I don’t take any great moral from the film, it’s just a nice story I enjoyed.
Furthermore, this film has been taking hits from critics, in my opinion, specifically for 2 reasons – One, M. Night has cast himself as a writer whose work will change the world, and Two, the villain of the film is – a film critic. Critics take themselves very seriously, and I think the character says some things that poked them a little too hard, leaving them to think – who the hell does M. Night think he his? The reviews for “Lady in the Water”, to me anyways, are at least partly a punishment for biting their hand, and partial honesty/lack of understanding of the film’s intentions.
So…. back to the actual film – Paul Giamatti carries this film on his shoulders, supported by a largely unknown cast peppered by good actors like Freddy Rodriguez and Bob Balaban here and there. Bryce Dallas Howard is a sea nymph/narf who very simply, has come to rely a message, and then needs to get back to the Blue World from which she came. The problem though is that she needs to catch an Eagle home, and theres some strange wolf-like creature out there waiting to destroy her. Together, the residents mysteriously have to figure out how to arrange conditions favorable for her departure. It really isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t all that ridiculous at all if you can accept that this is a fantasy film. Giamatti’s performance in particular is reason enough to see this film itself, as while he is funny and Jimmy Stewart-ish at times, he carries a real pain at the same time that truly comes to a moving climax. This film really cements my opinion of Giamatti as my favorite actor working right now.
So ultimately you’ll have to judge for yourself, I just hope you can tap into a childish mindset and just accept whats happening rather than thinking too realistically. – Goon