Went to see Lady in the Water tonight, M. Night Shyamalan’s latest flick. I really dug The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable, half of Signs, and probably about 1/4-1/3 of The Village. So you can probably guess that I went into Lady in the Water with some hesitation. I had seen bits of it at the scoring session a few months ago, but had no concept of how it all pulled together. Did it work? Well, if you want a tweaked “bedtime story” with lots of metacontextual self-aggrandizing preaching, sure!
The film is about Cleveland Heep (Paul Giamatti), the superintendent of The Cove (an apartment complex in the outskirts of Philadelphia) who has buried his tragic past, and his encounter with Story (Bryce Dallas Howard), a “Narf” (sea nymph) from The Blue World sent on a mission to re-establish contact between her world, and the world of man. You with me so far?
So she’s looking for “the writer” – a man who will ultimately influence people and change the world, and he happens to live in The Cove. But who is the writer? Is it the new tenant, a film critic? Is it the guy who loves crossword puzzles? Is it the cat-lady? Is it M. Night Shyamalan, who cast himself in a prominent role in the film? Well, I won’t ruin everything to you, but as Cleveland tries to learn more about Story, he goes to the old Chinese lady who (through her daughter) tells him pieces of the bedtime story that is, apparently, real. Turns out that there’s a dark side to things, in the form of the Scrunt, a fierce beast determined to prevent Story from fulfilling her mission. Yes that’s right. “Narf” and “Scrunt”. I think Shyamalan has watched too much “Pinky and the Brain“, and picked a rather unfortunate slang word that refers to… umm…. click it if you dare.
In any case, as the film progresses, and we learn more about the bedtime story, other tenants at The Cove take on important roles to help Story get home to the Blue World. (She’s supposed to be picked up by the Great Eatlon, a giant eagle, but the Scrunt is trying to stop her.) The main theme of the movie, like most of Shyamalan’s films, is an exploration of faith, along with individual potential. It’s a noble idea, sadly cheapened by the convoluted, seemingly random and nonsensical storyline.
Luckily though, the movie is under two hours long, and the music by James Newton Howard is excellent. It’s not worth recommending the film for that point alone though, so I’d say, rent it if you’re curious. Also, I should add, this was a press screening, and I was rather surprised that the audience was generally snickering at the “serious” moments. Perhaps, then, it’s not surprising that the only person who dies in the film is…. the film critic. M. Night might have felt he was getting revenge, but in the end, the box office will reap his comeuppance.