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Lady in the Water

A movie directed by M. Night Shyamalan.

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A Perplexing Film from M. Night Shyamalan

  • Dec 26, 2006
Rating:
+1
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 used to be water people but how man gradually went on land, gained money and power, and became estranged from the purity of the water people: the ladies of the water will try to return reason to the land people but the journey will be fraught with danger.

Transfer that tale to real time and we find the disconsolate manager of an apartment house Cleveland Heep (a brilliant, stammering Paul Giammati) whose rules for the building dwellers include no smoking and no swimming in the pool after seven evening. He discovers a swimmer in the night pool, rescues her, learns her name is Story (Bryce Dallas Howard), and gives her a Gilead in his meager room. He discovers with the help of one of his tenant's Young-Soon Choi (Cindy Cheung) hesitant mother that Story is a narf, a creature from a bedtime story who is sent from the Blue World to imbue reason to a certain man (One who will return 'civilization' to mankind) and then return to her world on the wings of an eagle. Heep takes it upon himself to find the One who will allow Story to complete her mission, protecting her from the monsters in the night that would destroy her plight.

In seeking the One, we meet the buildings tenants: Reggie (Freddy Rodríguez) bent on working out only one side of his body (!); Mr. Dury (the always fine Jeffrey Wright) who is committed to solving crossword puzzles with his son Joey (Noah Gray-Cabey); a Mrs. Hill (Mary Beth Hurt) who seems to have spiritual affinities; the odd Mr. Leeds (Bill Irwin) who foresees things; a newspaper critic (Bob Balaban); a writer Vick Ran (M. Night Shyamalan himself), who appears to be the One who will answer the goal of Story, and his sister Anna (Sarita Choudhury): and a bizarre group of smokers and a family of Hispanic immigrant sisters. All of these characters are woven into the conclusion of the bedtime story as we watch the intial tale come to resolution.

It plays better on paper than on film as there are so many loops and problems with the plot that it becomes silly. But the film is saved by the actors, Giamatti especially, who makes us love him and his very troubled past shrouded in secrets, and Howard who truly does allow us to suspend disbelief in her otherworldly portrayal of the lonely and needy water nymph. You simply have to be in the mood for this kind of film and forgive Shyamalan his oversights and vanity, and if you can do that it is a pleasant little diversion. Grady Harp, December 06

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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 . June 08, 2009
Lady in the Water
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.   & …
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 …
About the reviewer
Grady Harp ()
Ranked #97
Grady Harp is a champion of Representational Art in the roles of curator, lecturer, panelist, writer of art essays, poetry, critical reviews of literature, art and music, and as a gallerist. He has presented … more
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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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