Lady in the Water

Last Saturday when I met up with mom and Erin, we went to see Lady in the Water (which was much more difficult than I expected: it has only been out since July 21st and was only in one theater in Seattle!). [Warning: some minor spoilers ahead] I hadn’t read any reviews of the film before seeing it, but have enjoyed M. Night Shyamalan‘s work in the past. They only thing I heard about it was that it doesn’t have his characteristic twist at the end, I was okay with that. Now having seen the movie, I have been browsing the Rotten Tomatoes reviews of the film and see that this movie has, by and large, not received critical acclaim (both from “professional” and “amateur” critics alike). Their consensus: “A far-fetched story with little suspense.” I particularly enjoyed Entertainment Weekly’s comment that Lady is “Shyamalan’s most alienating and self-absorbed project to date.” What do I have to say to all of this? What a load of crap!

A good majority of moviegoers disagree with me, but, quite frankly, they are wrong. The tagline for this film is “A Bedtime Story” - this is a fairly tale, and a well told one at that. While the movie isn’t as creepy as his previous, there are definitely still elements of creep and suspense. Paul Giamatti did a superb job in the role of “Cleveland Heep”, a kind apartment manager who finds himself in the middle of a seemingly unreal fantasy. The rest of the ensemble cast did a great job moving the story along. Bryce Dallas Howard as the Lady played the mysterious “Story” perfectly. One of the critiques Shyamalan has received is that his insertion of himself as the hero and soon to be martyred writer was self-indulgent and egotistical. Well, maybe, but he did a good job of the acting. His appearance may not have been necessary, but most other directors are self-indulgent and egotistical, Shyamalan just happened to be on the screen this time.

Shyamalan also uses humor throughout the suspense that was not very traditional (but I really enjoyed it). It was unexpected but really reflected the humor of real life (that doesn’t always happen in funny situations). The jokes were also used to poke fun at critics (no wonder they didn’t like it!), life, and even itself. I also really enjoyed the cinematography (which has also received negative comments). The use of focus (and zoom to an extent) was very original I think. There would be moments where the frame was out of focus and the character(s) would would into or out of that focus plane as the scene called for. Most film makers would probably not want to keep the focus of the scene, as it were, out of focus for the amount of time that Shyamalan does, but I think it is done very well with the movements of the scenes. The use of the pool in the final scene was also very well done and allowed for an interesting visual of the climax.

The moral of the story? Believe in fairy tales! Heh. We are taught to seek after the things we are called to and to not hide from the past. Cleavland has to deal with his past and his “place” in life. In the end, we don’t know what happens. It is left up in the air. We don’t know what happens to any of the characters. I liked that. We aren’t told that things will all be easy now, we are told that these different people came together to support each other in who they are and who they are to become. We are left with hope.

One of my favorite moments [Warning: larger spoiler ahead]: The plan to save Story has not worked out, everything is failing. Someone notes that Story told them the universe would lead them down a path to salvation (essentially). At that exact moment we see the crowd parting and the camera slides down between them to reveal Story being carried down a path by the Scrunt. All the horrible things that have happened seemed to have gotten worse at that moment, but in reality it is the event that leads to salvation. Interesting. [/ End Spoiler]

My advice: go see the movie! Don’t listen to all the reviews. It is a bedtime story, treat it as such and enjoy the story telling.

Official Site
Rotten Tomatoes reviews
Powell’s Books - Lady in the Water: A Bedtime Story the movie
Powell’s Books - Lady in the Water: A Bedtime Story the book

Cleveland Heep: H-how was your movie?

Harry Farber: It sucked.

Cleveland Heep: Oh..

Harry Farber: Just another piece of crap movie in which the two protagonists finally confess their feelings for each other in an ending scene outside during a thunderstorm. Why is it that people in movies like to stand around and talk in the rain?

Categories: Movies
  1. August 23rd, 2006 at 17:34 | #1

    A great review. I also loved the movie - purely from a fun, entertaining viewpoint. I really liked the ensemble cast, they all came together perfectly in their respective fairy tale roles. I also liked the “everyone has something important to contribute” theme, when they come together to lay hands on Story. I always find very spiritual themes in Shyamalan’s films.

  2. August 23rd, 2006 at 18:51 | #2

    Thanks Jan! I agree, it was just an all around good experience. Shyamalan is a mystery when it comes to his beliefs.. definitely has many elements of spirituality in there.

  3. August 24th, 2006 at 05:51 | #3

    I loved this movie too. Though I do think that it was a bit egomaniacal of M. Night to insert himself as the man who essentially will save the world- not that he did a bad job with the role, I just think it’s a bit weird to give that role to yourself. But I did thoroughly enjoy this movie. I would put it after Unbreakable and the Sixth Sense in his body of work, and ahead of the Village and Signs.I really enjoyed it, and thought paul Giamatti in particular was fantastic. I alos can’t help but wonder if the movie critic character played(hilariously) by Bob Balaban didn’t hurt the movie’s chances of fair and balanced reviews.

  4. August 24th, 2006 at 11:30 | #4

    I never saw the movie but I love the comments and the photos. Could you take a picture of me please?

  5. August 24th, 2006 at 11:52 | #5

    Thanks for the thoughts Paticus. I agree that is was egomaniacal of him to be in that role, but I am okay with it. Steven King did the same thing (essentially) in his Dark Tower epic… it just happens to not be on film.

    I also agree about Balaban’s role. And I am glad his was there, even if it hurt the movies chances with the critics, it wouldn’t have been the same without him.

    Euro: take a picture of you?

  6. August 29th, 2006 at 22:02 | #6

    i agree. i totally like this movie.

  1. August 23rd, 2006 at 05:36 | #1
  2. September 1st, 2006 at 00:51 | #2

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