Thursday, August 03, 2006

Lady in the Water

By Reymundo Salao

I never read reviews of movies that I am about to watch. ESPECIALLY not if it’s for one of the movies of M. Night Shyamalan. Most of his works are shrouded with enigmatic elements, surprise endings and mind-bending twists. But if you're having second thoughts of spending your money for his latest work LADY IN THE WATER, then, you're welcome to read on.

A modest building manager named Cleveland Heep rescues a mysterious young woman from danger and discovers she is actually a narf, a character from a bedtime story who is trying to make the treacherous journey from our world back to hers. Cleveland and his fellow tenants start to realize that they are also characters in this bedtime story. As Cleveland falls deeper and deeper in love with the woman, he works together with the tenants to protect his new fragile friend from the deadly creatures that reside in this fable and are determined to prevent her from returning home.(Synopsis from Warner Bros.)

LADY in the WATER is written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan who is known for his previous works like “Sixth Sense”, “The Village”, and “Unbreakable”. This film boasts the acting skills of the great Paul Giamatti and it also stars Bryce Dallas Howard, Jeffrey Wright, and Cindy Cheung.

The movie actually has an intriguing plot, the likes of a Stephen King creation, but the way it is presented is just an untidy mess. It has numerous plotholes and unbelievable situations. And by unbelievable, I do not mean the fantasy aspect; but what I mean are the character reactions and interactions. Keeping in mind that the story is set around realistic normal people with normal circumstances faced with a fantastic occurrence; but the story does not attempt to polish it thoroughly. In the movie, normal characters are being told of the fantastic occurrences surrounding the arrival of the Lady in the Water. They are told to join in on a bizarre ritual to help this strange lady. And they all do it, without much hesitation or skepticism. When normal characters are presented by fantastic occurrences, it is normal to inject them with a little skepticism. There was no opposing skepticism within the movie. Shyamalan may think he’s breaking a cliché. But it’s not cliché; it’s common sense. It is as if the characters were made to react conveniently in tune with its fantastic storyline. In effect, I think Shyamalan has made a breakthrough category with this movie, one that I would call “Slapstick Drama”

The relationship between the Lady and Cleveland Heep is too vague that it ends up uninteresting. Does he see her as a daughter? As a love? As somebody to protect? As a soul-touching friend? The movie teases on all aspects but it never gets to the point.
There was also humor in scenes where it felt inappropriate. The humor scene with the Chinese mother sharing the "bedtime story" with Cleveland Heep was tacky, corny, and extremely out of place. For me, it felt like it decreased the credibility of the "bedtime story" than by easing it into believability. Shyamalan also has an acting role in this movie, one that felt like an exercise in narcissism. It’s one thing for a director to cast himself for a minor role, it may be another thing to cast himself for a lead role but one that feels like a role that fits him; but for a writer-director to cast himself as a “great writer that would inspire the rise of a world leader” just seemed arrogant.

M. Night Shaymalan seemed to had lost his genius for storytelling. “Lady in the Water” presents itself to be a bedtime story, or at least, presents a bedtime-story-come-to-life. But it drags and bores with uninteresting plot details and boring creatures. There is no charm and wonder. It, at the very least, never gives enough sense of intrigue and mystery. By the middle of the movie, everything and every character becomes boring that you find yourself uttering "Just get on with it" with maybe a glint of hope that upcoming sequences would compensate for the film's lack of charm. But there is nothing great there. It's like a big joke to those who have stereotyped or have come to associate Shyamalan's works as something that always has a surprise ending. The only surprise here was there was no big surprise. Shyamalan would probably laugh at those who waited for a big surprise and got none. The look on their faces.

I do not stereotype Shyamalan's works that way. In fact, his movie "Signs" had no surprise ending. But it had an intriguing and enigmatic storyline your mind could wrap around on. "Lady in the Water" was just one big joke. Silly, dull and boring may be some words I can say about this movie, but to round-off my opinion on what the movie was... it was Unconvincing. I'm sure many would embrace the weirdness of Shyamalan's work here. But it didn’t convince me. Just go see for yourself; but don’t say I didn’t warn you. “Lady in the Water” was, well, just a lady in the water.

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