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LADY IN THE WATER (2006) (PG-13)

Warner Bros.

Official Site

Director: M. Night Shyamalan

Producers: Sam Mercer, M. Night Shyamalan

Written by: M. Night Shyamalan

Cast: Paul Giamatti, Bryce Dallas Howard, Jeffrey Wright, Bob Balaban, M. Night Shyamalan

Rating:


First off, let me address the inevitable question by letting you know that there is no signature twist ending in the new M. Night Shyamalan movie. The fact that he has released a movie that isn’t a sequel, prequel, or remake seems shocking enough for this dreary summer season. Yet despite the lack of a “paradigm shift,” Shyamalan has created yet another uniquely messy head-scratcher of a movie that will surely divide audiences.

Shyamalan’s new film, based on his own screenplay, is a fairy tale set around an apartment complex in Philadelphia. Our hero, manager/handy-man Cleveland Heep (Giamatti) has just finished a wearying day of catering to his colorful tenants’ problems when he is drawn to pool and nearly drowns. He is rescued by a girl who claims to be a Narf (Do be quiet, Pinky!) from the Blue World. Initially taking her for crazy, Cleveland learns from one of his tenants that a Narf is actually a character in a Chinese myth, who comes to earth to help mankind, but that there are wolf-like creatures trying to stop her. Cleveland decides to help her on her quest to find a writer living at the apartment complex, and then travel back to her home world. He soon learns that various tenants of the apartment complex are meant to play roles in this bedtime story.

What Shyamalan is trying do here is something very ambitious: a postmodern Western interpretation of a traditional East Asian myth. While it may seem that many aspects of the fairy tale are confusing, and the plotting rather sloppy, Lady In The Water’s convoluted story is very much in the tradition of East Asian myths and legends, where rituals are important and characters are often difficult to define, let alone understand. Howard, whose ethereal beauty serves her well in the role of the Narf, plays an Eastern-style spirit with magical powers, like seeing into people’s future, who must nonetheless obey seemingly pointless rules in her quest to find, enlighten, and go back home. Like so many of Shyamalan’s other characters, Cleveland has been scarred by the past, and so within his east/west meld, Shyamalan manages to fit his familiar themes of otherworldly redemption of a damaged human life. But auteur or not, it seems that at various points in the movie, Shyamalan could have used a collaborator to point out where he’s being unctuously self-conscious in his script. Still Lady In The Water is marked by the kind of first-rate craftsmanship we’ve come to expect from Shyamalan, and his film is an authentic original in summer filled with soulless clones.

—Edward Rholes

hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.

Itís worth a full-price ticket.

Itís worth a matinee ticket.

Wait for video rental.

Check out the video from the library, if you must.

While we would never encourage anyone to destroy a video...


Mike Doughty



Pink Floyd

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