Tuesday, August 15, 2006



Recently, I made a little alone trip to the movies and saw this recent effort of a much loved director. Some of Shayamalan's work is just brilliant, in my book-namely SIGNS and UNBREAKABLE. Though THE VILLAGE received lukewarm reviews and critics and audiences are both beginning to doubt his abilities, I still find him comparable with Hitchcock in many respects.
If you make an effort to view some of Hitchcock's earliest work (especially the silent film THE LODGER), you can see alot of similarities between he and Shayamalan. Both directors have a great grasp on the visual while sometimes seeming a bit too ambitious with their respective stories. Character developement is often very defined while in the same film, sadly lacking. Both directors enjoyed adding a signature 'twist' to their film climaxes. Some critics think this makes for very one-dimensional filmmaking and therefore both Hitchcock (in his early days) and M (I am NOT spelling out that name every time! ) have had their nay-sayers.

The Lady in the Water is, however, much better than the critics would have you believe. The story is silly and sometimes a little over-ambitious. The movie is a bit self indulgent also-as Shayamalan has cast himself in quite a meaty role. But it succeeds in two very important areas-entertainment and acting.
The story is actually a tale within a tale. An eastern bedtime story is quickly related in which water nymphs must come in contact with a human and attempt to make much needed changes in society through their human 'vessel'. These water nymphs live underneath swimming pools, placed there as infants before the pools are constructed and surfacing only momentarily until it is time for them to contact their vessel. Once the narf (as she is called) is out of the water, she is pursued by ravenous beasts called 'scrunts' whose sole purpose is to defeat the nymph. Once her mission is safely accomplished however, the scrunt must relent and allow the narf to be safely taken back to her own world by a large eagle sent for this purpose. If the scrunt oversteps his bounds, he is punished by Tartuic-peacekeepers living in the trees*. It's all very involved and ponderous...but still a little exciting.

Paul Giamatti plays Cleveland Heep, caretaker of an apartment complex with, of course, a pool. Heep has a stutter and is completely wrapped up in the lives of his tenants. Giamatti plays him excellently and lovingly. He is funny and endearing-intelligent and vulnerable. The tenants are a collection of hilarious oddball characters that remain at all times intriguing in their eccentricities. Bob Balaban (Close Encounters, Mighty Wind) plays his signature 'straight man' with panache. As the movie progresses, Heep discovers the narf (played by lovely but ho hum Bryce Dallas Howard) in the pool and makes it a mission to help her find her vessel and protect her from the scrunts he is quite shocked to discover living in his lawn. A series of miniscule plot twists result as Heep discovers things about the tenants that relate in various ways to the narf and her goals. There are a few dramatic moments and brief scares but for the most part the film remains very upbeat. The special effects are pretty good as well, though they are not the main draw for me.

In closing, may I just say that I am especially thrilled by how clean this movie was. I did not detect any major language (though Kids-in-mind may refresh my memory) and sexuality is not an issue at all. The scenes between the narf and scrunts are a bit intense but not overly violent or at all gory. I am very pleased to see a director step away from the typical manner that most directors of this genre will approach such a story. Of course, since Shayamalan wrote the whole thing, he had no one to disappoint.

My rating: 7.5/10

*If you are interested in this little 'bedtime story', it's also noteable that Shayamalan has released it in book form for children. You can find it at your local bookstore.


Blogger Anastasia said...

I know you posted this a loooong time ago. But I love lady In the Water. It makes me cry every single time. I will see pretty much anything Giamatti is in. He's fantastic.

2:41 PM  

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