Lady in the Water ****
Mr. M. Night Shyamalan needs to have a serious talk with the people that promote his films. Every single time one of his movies comes out, the ads make it out to be a big horror film, and in the end, they always turn out to be a romantic drama/fantasy story, with almost no scares at all. It happened to "Signs," it happened to "The Village," and it happened with the brilliant "Lady in the Water," and people don't like that. I can't count of my hands the number of people that walked out of this movie asking for their money back, and every time they do, I say "It's been an hour, you can't get a refund." Plus. I can't understand why anyone would want to miss a minute of this magical tale.
I'll admit, I haven't always been kind to Shyamalan. I can't always buy into the story that he wants to tell, and his films are either brillant or absolute garbage. He never gives an in-between. Here, he has the always fantastic Paul Giamatti as Cleveland Heep, a superintendent at "The Cove," an apartment complex. As he's showing around the newest tenent, movie critic Harry Farber, we get to meet all the different types of people that reside there. There is Reggie, a body builder who is only lifting weights on one side of his body. One arm is strong, while the other hands limply. There's Mr. Leeds, an old gentlemen who does nothing all day but watch television, and sit in his chair. There's Mr. Dury, who loves to do crossword puzzles, the group of hippies who sit around all day, smoking weed and having rambling conversations, and there's the woman who brings in animals, etc etc. One night, Heep is awakened by the sound of splashing in the pool, and he goes out to find a lady in the water. She reveals herself as Story, a narf from the Blue World. She was sent here on a mission to find someone that needs to look at her, to awaken something inside of him. And eventually she does find that person, Vik Ran, a tenent who is writing "The Cookbook," a politcal commentary. Story is being hunted by scrunts, little animals that hide in the grass. However, laws protect Story from being hunted after he mission is complete, and she is ready to go and wait by the pool to be picked up by the Great Eagle. But, it doesn't work out that way, and a rogue scrunt ends up trying to chase her down. And that is when Cleveland decides that he has to find a way to get Story back to her home.
I know, it sounds ridiculous. Narfs and scrunts and the Great Eagle, but that is the type of story this is. It's a fantasy story. . . a bedtime story. Something to amuse children before they go to sleep. The trick is to find the deeper meaning behind it. We all have a purpose. This is where M. Night begins to get clever, making everybody in the apartment complex mean something. Mr. Farber ends up giving his commentary on which person in the apartment has to preform a certain act, based on the movies he's seen. He's the comic relief, and an obvious stab to the movie critics that hated M. Night's earlier work. Mr. Farber's fate is evidence to this. Paul Giamatti gives another great preformance, as the lonely and quiet Cleveland Heep. Bryce Dallas Howards is beautiful, and brings heart to a subtle and quiet role. The rest of the supporting characters are fine, except for M. Night himself, who plays Vik. It seems a bit above him to make himself a character who ends up writing something that a future president keeps in his bookshelf at the very top. It's a little cocky. He also has to start to understand that he really isn't a good actor. In his previous films, he always shows up, but only in a three minute scene. Vik is a major character, with long rambling monolouges that M. Night delivers in a dull and monotone voice. I was able to look past his acting, because everything else surpasses it, but still. The cinematography is stunning. I seriously have been giving a deeper look to this field of late, being blown away by the dark look of alot of recent films, over the past year. The music also fits perfectly, especially during the extended montages.
And ridiculous sounding or not, I walked out of "Lady in the Water" is a stunned silence. It was a beautiful film, and towards the end I even got a little teary eyed, hoping that the characters would achieve their goal. It doesn't provide much closure to any of the supporting characters, and we end the film with a blurry image of a person reflected in water. I've heard alot of beef about this, but this is the perfect way to end it. Nothing more needs to be said. I saw, ignore the bad press and see it for yourself, with an open mind. Remember, it's an M. Night Shymalan film. Don't expect big scares. It's eerie, but beautiful, with a great message. This is one of the year's best films.