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Tuesday, August 08, 2006

M. Night Shyamalan's LADY IN THE WATER, starring... M. Night Shyamalan, really.

The following factors may help you enjoy Lady In The Water more:

  1. Do NOT read a single coverage of the film's troubled production. The less you know, the better.
  2. Do NOT have any expectations at all. (but this is common sense)
  3. You are a hardcore M. Night Shyamalan fan. Anything he does can please you. The Village made you cry, and its 'twist' made you fly.
  4. You do not know that the Indian dude in the film who is destined for greatness by writing a book that will inspire the future US president is played by M. Night Shyamalan himself.
  5. You share M. Night Shyamalan's hatred towards film critics and any film-critic bashing is considered witty to you.

Because if you know too much about the film itself and you've read too much coverage of it, it's impossible not to allow your judgement to be slightly biased. The less you know about the film, the better. Forget about the highly-publicized divorce between Shyamalan and Disney after the execs voice out their dislike for his script (causing the director to burst into tears), forget about him commissioning a book that chronicles Shyamalan's struggles against the 'money-hungry Disney' and his courage to keep his film alive by moving to Warner.

Let's face it, Shyamalan's arguably the most popular film 'auteur' in Malaysia (most people treat Wong Kar Wai with disdain), all his films get to be shown over at the country's cinemas (a privilege denied even from Tarantino himself, whohoo). People have a high tolerance level towards his work. So, if you started watching the film without knowing the story behind it, or, well, without knowing that Shyamalan himself was playing a crucial supporting role in it, everything would've seemed much less an ego trip. But more a sincere attempt to craft a good film and tell a story from his heart.

I'm trying to be VERY objective about this film by IGNORING the fact that Shyamalan chose to play an author who was destined to change the world via martyrdom. I mean, come on, it has Paul Giamatti in it, a FABULOUS actor whom teenage girls will never appreciate because he's not hunkilicious like Johnny Depp, the cinematography is by usual Wong Kar Wai collaborator Christopher Doyle (who also shot Infernal Affairs and Hero), whom I usually admire. Paul Giamatti acted well, as usual, and the cinematography, hm, well, actually, I was pretty underwhelmed. Strangely, the film didn't look as good as Doyle's Hong Kong works. Oh, and Bryce Dallas Howard, ah, I don't know how I should judge her acting. I guess it's all right. Looking forward to see her as Gwen Stacy in Spider-man 3 next year.

Buildup was yawn-inducingly slow, the stereotypical portrayal of the Koreans annoyed me, the whole dissing of the film critic character seemed more bitter and juvenile than actually witty and funny. At least there wasn't a blatant twist in the end, and if Shyamalan fans were calling it original, I guess it had to do with the fact that it excluded said blatant twist in the movie. Second half was better, it dealt with the concept of community, where everyone who lived in the apartment were roused from their boring everyday lives to participate in something magical and fantastical.

If this were a better film, it would've tickled my imagination. It would've tapped into some people's yearning for a more interesting life, where battles between good and evil can be fought, to save the world from the baddies, to display courage never displayed before. Unfortunately, all these didn't really happen. It was just a bore at the beginning, that gradually got somewhat interesting, and then... the credits rolled. The only thing that lingers is a feeling of emptiness.

Oh, and this comes from a guy who actually liked Sixth Sense, Unbreakable and yes, even Signs (because I thought Joaquin Phoenix beating the crap out of the alien with a baseball bat was hardcore), and some moments of The Village (Joaquin Phoenix's oh-so-manly declaration of love! And Adrien Brody stabs Joaquin Phoenix, ouch!).

Overall, I'll place Lady In The Water in the same level as The Village.

Other reviews of the film:

The Gallivantings of Daniel Franklin
Daniel rips the film apart.

Eye on Everything
Eyeris calls it one of his favourite films this year.

Dream Ink
Zahar admires the technical aspects of the film and thinks that Shyamalan can still be promising in the future.

'He' and 'Her' think that the film is all right.

Clapboard Jungle

Catherine thinks that Shyamalan playing author who is destined for greatness is an egoistic, self-serving thing to do.

Luther At The Movies

Martin's not too impressed.


J Caleb Mozzocco thinks it sucks too.

Watch the parodies of Lady In The Water: