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Lady in the Water
A fairy tale from the mind that brought you The Sixth Sense
Lady in the Water
M. Night Shyamalan and Paul Giamatti in "Lady in the Water".
OPENING WEEKEND: $43,000,000
DOMESTIC TOTAL: $158,000,000
  This Film is NOT a Future Release.
  The Following Preview has been Archived.

February 27th, 2006: Cleveland Heep (Paul Giamatti) is a quiet superintendent at the Cove apartment complex, modestly living his mundane life until something remarkable occurs. One day, he rescues a young woman named Story (Bryce Dallas Howard) from the building’s swimming pool. Soon, Cleveland discovers that she is actually a narf, a nymph-like creature from a bedtime story. Apparently, she is trapped in his world, with a group of vicious creatures determined to keep her there. Cleveland enlists the help of other tenants to help her with this difficult and rather bizarre undertaking. Attracted by Story’s unique powers of perception about their destinies, the initially skeptic group becomes compelled to help her in her treacherous quest. Now Cleveland and the others must use newfound courage and take great risks if they are going to help Story get back to her world. The fate of her world and theirs depends on it.

What to Expect: The film is based on a bedtime story that M. Night Shyamalan has written for his children. As one of Hollywood’s golden boys, Shyamalan broke onto the scene with the resounding critical and commercial hit, The Sixth Sense. His thrillers have been eagerly anticipated and debated ever since. A bit reminiscent of Alfred Hitchcock, he has a penchant for suspenseful pacing and overt use of color. On the other hand, Shyamalan’s tendency toward supernatural blockbusters, carefully designed to entertain the masses, is similar to what Spielberg did with films like E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Those are two impeccable filmmakers to be compared to, but Shyamalan always leaves a unique mark of his own in his films. For instance, audiences cheerfully welcome his trademark, mind-bending twist endings. Unfortunately Shyamalan has struggled to grow as a director in his most recent efforts. He followed The Sixth Sense with Unbreakable, which was an incredibly compelling and realistic approach to a story about comic books. His next project, Signs, was an absorbing tale of an alien invasion, told in a remarkably convincing fashion. At this point, however, his tricks became outrageously obvious. Shyamalan’s focus on a realistic approach toward the supernatural, his tendency to have slow ominous build-ups, his use of children, all leading up to a dependable twist ending, have become a bit too much like clockwork. They feel less like creative choices and more like deliberately constructed patterns. Unbreakable and Signs were both still terrific films (in fact Unbreakable is my favorite Shyamalan picture), but the novelty of The Sixth Sense and its dazzling ending was gone. Perhaps this is the main problem all along. By hinting at his surprise endings or making them incredibly predictable, Shyamalan allows the audience to be smarter than his characters. It can get a little tedious watching people dumber than you search for that obvious enlightenment. Shyamalan’s last movie, The Village, was by far his most disappointing effort. The film contained the eeriest and most evocative atmosphere that Shyamalan has been able to conceive in any of his films. Thanks in large part to a very effective use of a ghostly forest, the movie was saturated with genuine dread. But Shyamalan went overboard with the slow pace and his laughably heavy-handed resolution was a complete letdown, not to mention somewhat predictable.

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After giving a very mature performance in The Village, Bryce Dallas Howard, daughter of Oscar winning director Ron Howard, returns to work with Shyamalan once again. She is well on her way to becoming a future star with the way she exuded both innocence and confidence in her first lead role ever in The Village. I imagine she will have the same charm and purity as Story. It’s a curious observation, but her father Ron made the similarly themed Splash in 1984. Paul Giamatti (Private Parts, Man on the Moon, Sideways), whose sudden rise to fame has resulted in countless high profile film roles, will star opposite of Bryce Dallas Howard. His recent Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination for Cinderella Man, which was directed by Ron Howard, is well deserved. I think he’ll be able to bring out the same shyness and repression that he has been able to express so effectively in the past. The two leads make a great match and should be perfectly fit for the material.

For Lady in the Water, the cult director appears to be toning down on his usual thriller elements. Initially, I was excited to hear that the source for the plot of the film was actually Shyamalan’s version of a bedtime story. It’s not that I love children’s tales. I simply imagined that Shyamalan had finally moved on to slightly different subject matter. Then I realized that just because this is a bedtime story, doesn’t mean it will be completely void of the trademark Shyamalan dread. After all, the Grimm’s fairy tales were quite dark and violent, so why wouldn’t he be able to do the same. In fact, I do believe that this is the general direction that he is going to take this story in. He’ll transform an enchanting tale into a foreboding film. It will probably not contain the same pulse pounding thriller elements as his previous works, but don’t expect a G-rated family picture. Consequently, I think everyone can rest assured that Shyamalan will deliver in his usual fashion, complete with another twist ending. Unfortunately, I think I may have already figured this twist out while writing and researching for this preview.

In Conclusion: Early reports from test screenings have not been favorable. It seems that Shyamalan has not improved much on his last effort, The Village, and Lady in the Water is mostly a snooze-fest. This is not based on the final cut, but rather on a fairly long, unedited, version of the movie. As such, I think that Lady in the Water will benefit from some trimming and Shyamalan will have another hit on his hands. I don’t expect him to surprise us with anything remarkably new. I think the film will fall into the usual patterns of the director, making it simultaneously enjoyable and predictable. But even average efforts from talented craftsmen of the cinema are worth the price of admission. Shyamalan still needs to develop as a director, but the skills he possesses at the moment are sufficient enough to keep millions entertained. I think Lady in the Water will probably be more fascinating to those unfamiliar with the director’s work as it may not satiate his biggest fans.

Similar Titles: The Village, Willow, E.T. the Extra Terrestrial
July 21st, 2006 (wide)
December 19th, 2006 (DVD)

Warner Bros. Pictures

M. Night Shyamalan

Paul Giamatti, Bryce Dallas Howard, Freddy Rodriguez, Jeffrey Wright, Mary Beth Hurt, Sarita Choudhury, Bob Balaban, Cindy Cheung

Total: 82 vote(s).

Drama, Fantasy, Horror

Click here to view site

Rated PG-13 for some frightening sequences.

98 min






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