Film Reviews

LADY IN THE WATER

By • Jul 21st, 2006 •

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Warner Bros. Pictures presents in association with Legendary Pictures a Blinding Edge Pictures production
MPAA rating: PG-13 / Running time — 110 minutes

QUOTE: It’s official now. THE SIXTH SENSE was a fluke. Shyamalan pompously gives himself the role of “The Intellectual Future Christ.”

I hated it from start to finish. Where to begin? The cinematography is just terrible. When it is not intentionally and frequently blurry, Shyamalan positions the actors with their backs to the camera. This generally means the actors cannot deliver the emotional dialogue with the proper facial expressions. The cinematography and positioning of the actors is alienating and is meant to draw attention to…the director.

There is no need for the director to remind us this movie is all about him since there he is in a supporting, rather important, role as “The Future Intellectual Christ.” Shyamalan also hates Americans. Everyone in this film is ugly except the “narf” and…Shyamalan. He works out. He has close-ups.

Starring in her second Shyamalan film after the dreadful THE VILLAGE, (Shyamalan didn’t know he was auditioning Ron Howard’s daughter since his casting director was brand new to the business. Howard was not submitted by an agent?), Bryce Dallas Howard should retire the ethereal not-of-this-world persona she is chaining herself to. It’s embarrassingly funny. In THE VILLAGE, Howard played blind-from-birth as a graceful aristocrat. Now, as a sea nymph, her wet hair and drippy vacant look of haunted mystery is laughable. Is it every man’s fantasy to rescue a non-verbal nymph with powers?

You know the story. Manager of Cove Apartments, Cleveland Heep (Paul Giamatti) has a terrible stutter, is out-of-shape and miserable. But he has a very good reason! He was once a doctor and a tragedy has made him an empty shell. Someone has been swimming in the Cove pool without permission. One night while Heep is watching the pool he falls in and is saved by a naked nymph named Story (Howard). She comes from The Blue World but speaks very good English and is a big flirt. Heep gives her a shirt to wear but not pants. He cradles her to sleep on his lap. It’s damn creepy.

Heep dopes out Story’s story but it made no sense to me. Story is a “narf.” There are monsters, “scrunts,” who want to keep her from returning to The Blue World because she is a very, very important mystical savior-being. Heep is told the bedtime story of “narfs” by an angry, suspicious Korean tenant (June Kyoko Lu)who does not speak English. Her saucy daughter,Young-Soon (Cindy Cheung), must translate the story in pieces. He doesn’t ask Young-Soon for a pair of sweatpants for his new guest. Story, for no good reason, loses her voice and also uses a translator through sign language. Heep has his own speech problems. It’s a theme.

Story needs the help of a team of people to get back to her world. While Story has absolutely no discernible weird water attributes or powers that anyone would recognize as otherworldly, somehow the Cove residents go along with thinking they are special and can help Story return to her world. Nobody asks any questions about The Blue World. They just want to know how many kids they will have.

The woe-be-gone Cove residents have a fiercely revolting new tenant, Mr. Farber (Bob Balaban), a tense ugly film critic who explains to Heep what characters to look for among the residents to fill the slots that the story requires. So, within the Cove are Story’s helpers: “The Guardian,” “The Healer,” and “The Interpreter of Signs.” Who fits the bill? Heep designates some of them, but when he fails, a kid reads cereal boxes to fix the problem. And I thought OCEANS 12 had stitched-up lazy plot holes.

LADY is pointlessly slow and, since Shyamalan created the fairy tale of narks and scrunts for his own children (I hate it when celebrities force their children’s stories on us), he has to do a lot of explaining. What and where is The Blue World, and who cares?

According to the New York Post’s Page Six, “Shyamalan was once Disney’s hottest property, churning out the 1999 smash, THE SIXTH SENSE, followed by UNBREAKABLE, SIGNS, and THE VILLAGE. But things soured last year when production president Nina Jacobson told him she and chairman Dick Cook didn’t “get” his script for LADY IN THE WATER, a SPLASH-like fantasy about a building super (Paul Giamatti) who rescues a sea nymph (Bryce Dallas Howard).

Jacobson also blasted a scene in which a movie critic is assaulted, ripped the director for giving himself a part, and criticized character names. “You said it was funny; I didn’t laugh. You’re going to let a critic get attacked? They’ll kill you for that . . . Your part’s too big, you’ll get killed again . . . What’s with the names?”
Once this story was prominently featured in ‘Entertainment Weekly,’ you just knew there would be a head rolling. The Los Angeles Times reports:

“Jacobson, 40, one of Hollywood’s most respected movie executives, was fired Monday morning by her boss, studio Chairman Dick Cook, when she called him from the hospital room where her partner was about to deliver their third child. Despite the record-breaking performance of Disney’s current release, PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MAN’S CHEST, she was hearing rumors and wanted reassurance that her job was safe. It wasn’t.”

I side with Jacobson. She was right not to green-light LADY IN THE WATER for Disney, but she did not go far enough in criticizing the screenplay.


Credits:
Screenwriter-director: M. Night Shyamalan
Producers: Sam Mercer, M. Night Shyamalan
Director of photography: Christopher Doyle
Production designer: Martin Childs
Music: James Newton Howard
Creature designer: Crash McCreery
Costume designer: Betsy Heimann
Editor: Barbara Tulliver

Cast:
Cleveland Heep: Paul Giamatti
Story: Bryce Dallas Howard
Mr. Dury: Jeffrey Wright
Farber: Bob Balaban
Anna Ran: Sarita Choudhury
Young-Soon Choi: Cindy Cheung
Vick Ran: M. Night Shyamalan
Reggie: Freddy Rodriguez
Mr. Leeds: Bill Irwin
Mrs. Bell: Mary Beth Hurt
Joey: Noah Gray-Cabey

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