Shyamalanathon 2009: Lady in the Water (2006)

This week I'm looking at the films of one of my favorite writer/directors, M. Night Shyamalan. So far I've reviewed The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable, Signs, and The Village. I think my brain might be breaking from so much writing, so here's me mostly making glorified captions for production stills of the movie.

I can't help myself: I adore Lady in the Water. It's a fun, somewhat self-indulgent film that completely charms me. Like most of Shyamalan's work, it has some scare moments, but in this case, the movie is mostly warm-fuzzy.

I think most of the reason I enjoy this movie so much is because the cast really seems to enjoy themselves. This isn't high art or overly dramatic. It's just a film that flourishes on an ensemble of actors and their funny interactions, making this a kids movie that's more entertaining than it needs to be.

Harry Farber (Bob Balaban) is a new tenant and is the new movie and book critic for a new paper. Cleveland Heep (Paul Giamatti), the apartment manager/maintenance guy is introducing him to Young-Soon (Cindy Cheung). This is just an awkward conbination of characters, and I love it. Mr. Farber is so cynical and self-righteous, anyone interacting with him is going to be awkward.

This is Long Haired Smoker (Jospeh D. Reitman) and One-Eyebrow Smoker (John Boyd). What descriptive names. Anyway, as part of a bunch of lay-about guys, they're pretty funny. The guy on the right (One-Eyebrow Smoker) is the genius behind the catch phrase "blim-blam."

Well, it's catch phrase to me. I use it often.

This is when Mr. Farber gets his come-uppance. This is a point when the movie takes self-indulgant stabs at film critics, but I'm amused by the sequence--especially since it comes right after Mr. Dury asks "What kind of person would be so arrogant as to presume the intention of another human being?" Just spell out your vitriol Night.

Here's Noah Gray-Cabey (aka Micah on Heroes) as the symbolist/interpretor Joey Dury. Let's identify all the adorable things about this scene: small child using phrophesy-like language, small child interpreting cereal boxes, an overly-supportive/nervous father, the original Guild and Mr. Heep trusting in the words of a small child, a whole lot of cereal for two people.

Mrs. Bell (Mary Beth Hurt) trying to heal Story (Bryce Dallas Howard). To the right of Mr. Heep we have sister and brother Anna (Sarita Choudhury) and Vick Ran (M. Night Shyamalan). Honestly, I don't care that M. Night cast himself in his own movie. He's not distracting and he even gets some funny moments. And Sarita Choudhury usually steals all the scenes she's in anyway, most of which are with Mr. Shyamalan. Anyone who can sell me on the line "He's hearing the voice of God through a crossword puzzle" is a winner to me.

Story and Mr. Heep have a sweet sort of chemistry. It's not quite father-daughter, but it's also not man-woman. It's more like a friendly fondness and deep affection for each other. Paul Giamatti is the one that makes me tear up in this movie. He's so likable and earnest, it's hard not to really feel it when his character gets desperate. And it's incredible how other-worldy and meek Bryce Dallas Howard seems in this film, especially because I just saw her being so effervescent and bold in The Village. Now if only she were cast in films that weren't awful, I would be happy.

But let's be honest, Reggie (Freddy Rodriguez, who I adore) really steals this movie. Like an experimental scientist, he only works out half his body. Mr. Heep notes early in the film that he's just trying to be special, and if it doesn't turn out to be the moral of the story: finding out who you are and what your purpose is. He ends up being the Guardian, and it's just so fun to see someone so goofy, but affable become a hero. It's the final warm-fuzzy on top of a whole lot of other warm-fuzzy moments. What a great kids movie.

No comments:

Post a Comment