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Lady in the Water

A movie directed by M. Night Shyamalan.

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Delicious Delusions of Grandeur.

  • Jun 8, 2009
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Lady in the Water is easily an old school Steven Spielberg-esque film. Shyamalan has given us Cleveland Heap, who in true ET style,  is going to help a young woman make her way back home. There are, of course, enemies that stand in there way, but that is nothing compared to the lack of self-confidence in their ability to carry out this mission. Thankfully, they have an eclectic cast of supporting characters that will each in their own colorful way help these two do what they are meant to do.

As a child of the 80s who grew up on these types of movies, I enjoyed Lady in the Water more than most. Mostly because I recognized what it was. I understood it. This is a story where leading male characters can be emotionally vulnerable. It's a story where being "rescued" is not only not a bad thing, but maybe even the mutual purpose of two or more people who encounter each other, presumably, by chance.

Had I been a child of the cynical years that came after the 80s, I probably would have written Lady off as wide-eyed, corny fluff. Many of my friends did. The critics had their own reasons for panning this one: most likely because  Night's critic character, whose purpose seems to dampen the more creative moments, managed to get under their skin. But that's kind of the point. The Lady in this film has the not so subtle name of "Story" -- and she's surrounded by a host of colorful characters that usually help along a good story. Also in her peripheral is the inevitable critic, who lingers in the back of the mind of every story (and story teller).  Lady in the Water is ultimately Shyamalan's metaphor for the storytelling process.

Or maybe just his storytelling process. Consequently, he uses this movie to expose himself. And this might be where some of the objections against the movie become valid -- if you miss the metaphor...

This story is supposed to feel like the first draft, where rediculous ideas have not yet been removed. So, yes, the rediculous happens in the movie. Like a kid who reads synchronistic messages on the back of cereal boxes (which I used to do when I was that age), and a guy who has a hulk-hogan half body. Apparently, Disney, who was the intended distributor for this film nearly pitched a turd when they read the script. They didn't "get it."

Not all of these absurdities work, either. In a few areas you almost get the feeling that Shyamalan is embarrassed by what he's trying to pull off. Like casting himself as a writer who is going to write a "Cookbook" that will give the long awaited recipe for changing the world.  M. Night follows through with this delicious delusion of grandeur, but chickens out at the last minute by laughing it all away with a half-hearted joke.

But if that was the worst of his crimes in Lady, then it's a misdemeanor at best. Every writer secretly suffers such delusions of grandeur. Night just admits it, albeit, he retracts immediately after.

Despite the intentional disjointed narrative, it is still possible to simply enjoy Lady in the Water as an inspiring and uplifting story. But that's assuming that you're willing to be inspired and that you're looking to be lifted. If not, and you're of the  lifting-yourself-up-by-your-own-bootstraps attitude, then you may rebuke this movie and its good intentions. But who knows, later on, when you're not so sure of yourself you may need what this Story has to offer.
Lady in the Water

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June 08, 2009
Thanks for a really great review. I generally like just about anything I have seen Paul Giamatti in so I will try to look for it on cable.
June 08, 2009
Giamatti is fantastic in this movie. In fact, this may have been the performance that made me realize just how talented he really is. His character stutters through the whole thing and somehow he pulls this off convincingly. There's a book called "The Man Who Heard Voices". It's a biography about the making of Lady in the Water and it is really good. The writer spends a lot of time observing Paul and reports that he is about the most down to earth actor you could meet. The same writer said that while Bruce Willis would show up in a limo with his entourage, Paul would show up by himself -- driving his own car.
June 08, 2009
He does seem like the kind of guy you meet at your high school reunion. He was fantastic in Cinderella Man and probably was more the reason for the success of the movie than Russell Crowe.
June 08, 2009
This was a very nice review Sniffcode! Very well organized. I have to say that I really did loath this movie for many of the reasons you posted as some of its failings. I couldn't stand that Night casted himself in the film and the story itself just didn't make any sense. I personally don't think he has had a good film since The Village thanks for writing a review on this film though because it got me thinking about it again.
June 08, 2009
I've read that a big criticism of Night is that he's a better Director than he is a writer, and that he may need to consider bringing writers into his creative process. That might not be a bad idea since he's been striking out lately with his flicks. Have you seen "The Happening"? That movie was really bad, but the premise was good. I almost wish Director's could do a "re-mix" of movies that they didn't quite get right the first time -- like they do in rap music.
June 08, 2009
I would have to say that The Happening is within my top ten worst films of all time.  I do like the re-mix idea, but I don't think anything could have save Happening...
June 08, 2009
LOL! You might be right there. I read an interview where Night said that the Happening was the best B-movie anybody was going to see. Whoa! But before I bust his balls too much, I think Fox may have had something to do with how bad that turned out. From what I heard, they pushed him in a lot of directions that weren't in the original script. I know, I know...I'm diggin' deep to save the poor guy.
June 08, 2009
Oh, I'm sure fox pulled a lot of strings as they always like to do, and I really enjoy Mknights films, but I feel like he needs to come up with something really big and fun for his next one to win his way back into my heart :)
More Lady in the Water reviews
review by . November 05, 2009
Pros: Unique story, good acting, music, style     Cons: Not much     The Bottom Line: This won't be the right cup of tea for some Shyamalan fans, but if you like his style and can handle a bit of urban fantasy, you're good to go.     When people hear M. Night Shyamalan's name, they think scary.  They think dead people and bizarre twists.  So I think when people saw the trailer for Lady in the Water, they were confused.  When …
review by . November 17, 2008
Based on an ancient story   Of a Blue World we forgot   When mankind turned away from peace   Bringing decay and rot     To save us all, the story goes   A messenger is sent   Awakening a human to   Forestall our sharp descent     Of course there is a darker force   A creature full of hate   Sent to destroy the messenger   So we can't change our fate     A …
review by . June 01, 2008
Pros: Original and well acted.     Cons: Hard to see at times because of the low light.     The Bottom Line: Well, I want to see it again soon. I think that this is a movie that bears repeat watching to catch the fine detail.     Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie''s plot. M. Night Shyamalan returns again with another dark twisted tale that makes us question some of our basic beliefs.       …
review by . September 30, 2007
Pros: Well acted, especially the every adorable Bryce Dallas Howard     Cons: Lacks energy; weak script; too far-fetched     The Bottom Line: M. Night Shyamalan is coasting along on reputation alone.     Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie''s plot. I loved The Sixth Sense, M. Night Shyamalan’s 1999 break out hit. The movie was mysterious, engaging and seriously frightening. None of the Indian born writer …
review by . January 28, 2007
posted in Movie Hype
Shyamalan's films are somewhat quirky and offbeat and very much draw upon his own idiosyncratic (but neither entirely original or totally out there) sense of what kinds of stories ought to be told. They usually don't conform to the standard Hollywood storytelling model, which means there are gaps and inconsistencies and odd duck characters and miscues that aren't entirely justified or the structure of the films is slanted without a clear "beginning" "middle" and "end" or where a "twist" takes the …
review by . June 27, 2007
I have seen every M. Night Shyamalan movie and like most people I have also had my share of problems with them as well. No matter what you think of him or his films he will no doubt always give an interesting story and he does so with Lady in the Water. Like one of the characters say in this film "the world no longer has any originality" I definitely agree. With Lady in the Water you get complete originality with a weird array of characters. Paul Giamatti (Cleveland Heep) plays a building manager …
review by . January 18, 2007
From all the previews, I was expecting a real horror story ... NOT! Although I enjoyed some of the actors and thought Giametti, as the building manager, and Howard as the water nymph, were suited for their roles, this movie was too slow in getting started.    Once I figured out what was going on and got past the large cast of characters involved, it turned out to be fairly enjoyable ... but I had to view it as a semi-comedy instead of the horror movie that I expected.    Exce …
review by . March 16, 2007
The Lady in the title is named Story, and is played by Bryce Dallas Howard. The water is literally an apartment swimming pool, but is really the blue world that is Earth. The story of this movie is relationship between the apt superintendent and Story. She rescues him from drowning at the beginning of the movie, he then rescues her from the wolf. Later she sees into his troubled heart and rescues his soul by giving someone to care for again; her. At the end he rescues her by assembling the apartment …
review by . January 16, 2007
M. Night Shyamalan has provide us another interesting film. His earlier works have been very cynical, and sometimes dark which I had fun watching. This film, in the other hand, ventures away from that and the characters are in a dissimilar light. M. Night somehow made a movie that is compatible with children, and just as compatible with the adult. The humor doesn't lose its touch halfway through the movie, and in some respects the humor adds to the sadness. The opening tells us that this is a children's …
review by . December 26, 2006
posted in Movie Hype
LADY IN THE WATER is a very tough film to review. M. Night Shyamalan is doubtless a new thinker and has produced some original and interesting films (none of which equal the promise of his first one THE SIXTH SENSE) and LADY IN THE WATER has some very good aspects. It is just such a mixed bag, full of holes and hints of personal vendettas that it ultimately fails to achieve what it sets out to do.    The opening sequence tells a tale in charming line drawings about how we all …
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Or, if you prefer,I See Wet People. M. Night Shyamalan's attempt at a newfangled mythology--about a depressed apartment superintendent (Paul Giamatti) who discovers a sea-nymph (Bryce Dallas Howard) who may hold the key to humanity's hopeful future--is intriguing enough to capture the imaginations of children and adults who haven't lost sight of their innocent sense of wonder. Cynics, on the other hand, will likely scoff at Shyamalan's awkward fantasy, which includes one victim--a film critic--widely interpreted as Shyamalan's revenge against reviewers who pannedThe Village. Shyamalan originally improvised this melancholy fantasy as a bedtime story for his children; unfortunately, it still feels mostly half-baked and ultimately ineffective due to a number of plot holes and inconsistencies that a writer as talented as Shyamalan should've been able to avoid. For those wishing to learn more about the film's troubled history, and Shyamalan's petulant split from Disney studios,The Man Who Heard Voices: Or, How M. Night Shyamalan Risked His Career on a Fairy Taleis an interesting read.--Jeff Shannon
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