Lady in the Water

If I hadn’t seen Lady in the Water with Salma, I would have walked out. But since I didn’t walk out, the question is—when would I have given up hope? When Story (Bryce Dallas Howard) tells Cleveland Heep (Paul Giamatti), “Thank you for letting me wear your beautiful shirt”? (When she could have stood to ask him for some pants, too?) When the writer (M. Night Shymalan) describes his current project as being his thoughts on “all the social problems”? (Could he maybe have named one? Poverty? Pollution?) When the crossword freak drops a meta dis on movie critics that results in the movie’s one likable, relatable character—a cantankerous movie critic played to perfection by Bob Balaban—getting eaten by a grass dog?

I think I wouldn’t have made it past the scene where M. Night finds out that through his masterwork, The Cookbook, he will exert a major influence on the world—posthumously. It’s bad enough that Night had to feature such an obvious Jesus figure. It’s worse that he had to play the Jesus figure himself. Claiming persecution is a rich move for a multihyphenate millionaire at any stage. Let’s call the celebrity’s persecution claim, be it Eminem’s “They try to shut me down on MTV” three albums into his career or Lindsey Lohan’s whining about tabloid rumors on her very first single, the jump-the-shark point of the fame trajectory. Such a claim indicates that the celebrity has officially reached critical mass and will soon become that black hole of fame, the has-been.

Besides, to paraphrase Salma, sometimes people hate a moviemaker because he makes bad movies. I can’t give a good plot summary of Lady in the Water because I’m not sure what happened. Story, a narf, lands in a pool and carves out a cave beneath it. Someone needs to see her to make something happen. Once she’s seen, she needs to leave, but she can’t do it without help. People help her. She leaves. Besides the narf and the grass dog, there’s a huge eagle, tree monkeys, and a bunch of quirky oddballs. It all goes down in an apartment complex that is simultaneously in Philadelphia and the deep forest. The movie reads like an eighties children’s-fantasy movie—The Never-Ending Story, say—only with adults. It probably would have worked better with children; it’s hard to buy that a bunch of adults would have nothing better to do with their day than help Spooky Chick fly the friendly skies. But even talented children couldn’t overcome all the self-aggrandizement Night commits to film. This and King Kong are competing for the title of worst movie I’ve seen this year—and, people, I just saw Gigli.

3 Responses to Lady in the Water

  1. Kris says:

    Maybe the screen time M. Night gives himself is the litmus test of how much the movie sucks. Inserting yourself, as the director, for a cameo is a perfectly respectable practice, made famous by Hitchcock; but the longer Shymalan is on the screen, the worse the movie . . .

    In his good movies, The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable, Shymalan is credited 28th and 25th, respectively. I liked Sixth Sense a little better than Unbreakable so, scientifically, this works for me so far . . . In Signs (which is the worst of his movies that I’ve seen) he is listed 6th . . . In The Village, he’s 30th (an anomaly in that its not a better movie than the Sixth Sense but still better that Signs) and in Lady in the Water, he’s listed 7th. All very sicentific. I’ll take this test and your word that Lady is a bomb and skip it.

    If Symalan ever has the leading role in one of his films, watch out.

  2. dbay says:

    I liked The Sixth Sense fine but wished someone would kill me during Unbreakable. Does that throw off your formula? Man, I hated Unbreakable so much! Signs was annoying too, though not as shoot-me-now boring as Unbreakable, IMHO.

    I liked The Village, which I recognize makes me 1 of only 2 people in the world who did. But that made me wonder if possibly I’d like Lady in the Water, since the whole world hates that one too. Probably not though.

    Still, Kris, an excellent formula.

    Here’s a topic for discussion: If you directed movies, would you put yourself in them? And if so, is that different from being a billionaire and naming things after yourself?

  3. Pulao says:

    The only reason I would make a movie is to star in it! I could be writer, director, star, producer– make sure I get a shot at all the possible oscars.

    Seriously, though, I don’t know that it’s that bad to put yourself in your movies– if you wrote it, chances are there are parts of you in every character, and if there’s more of you in one character in particular, why not? Woody Allen’s been doing it for years, and though a lot of people wish he would stop, I say, sheer number wise, he’s not doing so badly.

    In fact, I would take this a step further– if you’re going to put yourself in your film, make it a real character. You know, let it be someone the audience can react to, form an opinion of and thus make it a real commitment, a true risk. The other thing– and I know I’m taking on Hitchcock, but bear with me– the cameo thing seems a little too egotistical since it’s only for effect. Don’t you think?

Post a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *