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