Saturday, July 22, 2006

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love M. Night Shyamalan

by Chris
I didn't hate Lady in the Water, despite its flaws. The plot was a huge, convoluted, hole-ridden mess. The mythology was ridiculous and didn't mesh very well with Shyamalan's extremely heavy handed use of metaphors. But the movie worked, for me, because the bed-time story theme tied all of this together and made sense enough for me to put it all aside and enjoy the colorful characters, performances, and gorgeous cinematography.

Colorful characters: Blonde and Redhead!

I was intrigued by the cartoonish nature of the residents of the Cove. I thought the monsters were cool and pretty scary, although nothing compared to Night's almost-human aliens from Signs. Bryce Dallas Howard is such a striking presence, I couldn't take my eyes off of her. I think Shyamalan is aware of this; her face is usually obscured in scenes where the viewers' attention needs to be somewhere else. Giamatti was good, as usual, even though the stutter was too much (I have a stutter, we don't sound like Porky Pig). I honestly believe that Night casted himself as "the writer who's words will inspire change" as a joke. He seems like a funny and smart enough guy to know how people feel about him and I really think he's just playing with that.

Night really needs to stop writing his own scripts. There isn't really a twist in this one, but there is a role-assignment game that begins in the second act and takes too many unneccesary convolutions before the ending. Don't try to pick this one apart while watching it or try to guess a secret ending. Writing is actually a theme in this movie, so the plot is intentionally forthwright and plays with our expectations and the cliches of the fantasy genre (by "plays with" I mean "beats us about the head and neck with.") There is no concept of subtlety in this movie, but should a movie that is about a bedtime-story-come-to-life be subtle? I'm not even gonna go into the dialogue, anyone going to an M. Night Shyamalan movie for quality dialogue needs to first buy a clue before buying a ticket to Lady in the Water.

A moment of impossible beauty

I have a soft-spot for fantasy, so I was able to accept Lady in the Water. It is filled with moments of impossible beauty. The final sequence is one of the most strikingly beautiful things I've seen in a movie to date. I admire M. Night Shyamalan for sticking with his vision and the themes that interest him (hidden enemies, how a person can choose whether the death of loved ones can either destroy them or inspire them to do greater things). Say what you will about Lady in the Water, but at least it isn't another sequel or TV show adaptation, and that buys a lot of points with me.


Blogger Joe Sherry said...


I stutter as well and I've seldom seen a film character that stutters to come across as real to me, not that every stutter isn't different.

And with that said...I think Night has one, maybe two more chances (including this film) to hit back with me as a viewer before I shut down on his work. I liked Signs, I did. I hate Unbreakable. But The Village was just so atrociously bad (an ending really can kill everything that happened before, I didn't realize that) that my opinion of the man as a writer/director took a nose dive and it hasn't stopped falling yet.

Then again, I'm positive that I'm going to hold up Clerks II as one of my favorite movies of the year, so you can take my viewpoint with a super sized grain of salt.

7/22/2006 04:20:00 PM  
Blogger Alex Stroup said...

Saw it tonight and I loved it. I could have done with the meta stuff involving the critic, but everything else worked for me.

I see what Shyamalan was trying to do and I love it. I understand why most people probably won't like it and can't argue with it as it just comes down to tastes. Really it has the making of a great little cult film with an intense following that most people find weird. The problem for Shyamalan is that it isn't produced and distributed with cult status in mind.

7/23/2006 01:15:00 AM  
Blogger Chris said...

Yeah, I was kind of amazed that I liked Lady in the Water. I agree that The Village was a horrible turd. What is funny is that Lady shares some of The Village's flaws (the hard-to-buy mythology, most notably), but in the context of this movie I found the flaws somewhat charming.

And I agree with Joe about Clerks 2, I saw it yesterday and it is definitely my favorite movie of the year (I finally saw a movie I liked more than Slither!) and it just might be my favorite Smith movie. Clerks 2 is a perfect example of how great it can be when Kevin Smith sticks to what he does best. The dude totally hit it out of the park, he earned that 8-minute standing ovation at Cannes.

7/23/2006 11:19:00 AM  
Blogger Brian said...

I didn't like Lady as much as you guys. Or really at all. If you're going to do mythology you have to be at least a little thoughtful about it and this just didn't do it.

To me it felt like typical Shyamalan, where he came up with a concept but then found himself boxed in halfway through writing. So it all feels like he made it up as he went along.

The scene where the creature rises up from the ground had me thinking, "Great Pumpkin"!! Am I alone in this?

I also thought the supporting characters were a mess. The critic, of course, but everyone else too. Just bad idea after bad idea.

And what was with that stutter? He sounded like Billy in One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest. I kept thinking, somebody get this guy laid!

Also, Chris, I disagree that Night cast himself as a joke. It sure seemed dead serious to me.

7/23/2006 11:32:00 PM  

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