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Overall Rating
2.58

Awesome: 10.78%
Worth A Look: 22.16%
Average: 13.77%
Pretty Bad: 20.96%
Total Crap32.34%

12 reviews, 95 user ratings


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Lady in the Water
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by Rob Gonsalves

"In defense of Shyamalan."
4 stars

If you put a cloddish, stuck-up film critic in your movie, you're more or less begging for vicious reviews, and 'Lady in the Water' got 'em far and wide. My brothers and sisters in the reviewing trade can be touchy sometimes.

I approached M. Night Shyamalan's fable with an open mind, and ended up enjoying it. Perhaps it's because I caught it on DVD, and was able to watch it in the recommended stance: curled up on a bed under a blanket, hearing a bedtime story, as the film's protagonist Cleveland Heep (Paul Giamatti) is obliged to do on an old Chinese woman's couch when he wants to find out what the hell is going on.

Cleveland schleps through life as the super of a Philly apartment building loaded with offbeat characters. He has a past life he'd just as soon forget, and he's settled into unsurprising, unchallenging drudgery. Someone has been swimming in the community pool after hours, and Cleveland soon finds out who — a "narf" named Story (Bryce Dallas Howard), a sea nymph trying to contact a writer whose book will one day change the world.

Shyamalan plays the part of that writer. Really, it's as if he were painting a big red target on his film. Who is this egotistical asshole? Does he think his spooky summer flicks are going to bring about world peace? A closer reading of the film, though, suggests that Shyamalan's character is nothing special; he's only a conduit. As are all writers, and part of the point of Lady in the Water is that creativity can't be controlled; it comes unbidden and strange, like a narf in your pool — or the grass-enshrouded "scrunts" who hunt the narfs. (This is a good time to point out that the people who hooted so disdainfully at terms like narf and scrunt apparently have no problem with terms like jedi and hobbit.)

As Cleveland gathers an unlikely group around Story, Shyamalan's style remains sedate and thoughtful, pulling us all along into the mystery. Everyone has to figure out how to get Story what she needs, and the movie becomes a metafiction — like Adaptation, it's a story about a story writing itself. The film critic (Bob Balaban) is useless in this context, because he brings a jaded, seen-it-all perspective, when what's needed is the purer ardor of a child hearing a story or making one up. The movie is not Shyamalan's broadside against every film critic everywhere — it's part of the film's theme that man has forgotten how to listen to the uncanny. The other characters treat the story (or Story) as if it were exciting, unpredictable real life — as indeed it is, to them — while the critic treats life like an entirely predictable story. And let's not pretend there aren't arrogant, everything-sucks critics out there that you just want to kick in the teeth and ask why they even bother writing about things they so obviously consider beneath them.

The rules come fast and thick — the Guardian must stand here, the Guild must join hands there, while Story awaits the Eagle — but the plot remains storybook-simple: Story needs to Go Home, like many another strange visitor to mundane human life. The tone of Lady in the Water is set right off the bat, with a crudely animated sequence that recalls the opening of Watership Down. And if the rest of the movie had been animated, it might've gotten an easier time of it. But then you'd miss Paul Giamatti's delicate work (I admire how he hides his face from the camera in his early emotional moment with Story), and the rogue's gallery including Freddy Rodriguez as a goofball toning up one half of his body, and Mary Beth Hurt as the animal-loving Healer, and the luminescent Bryce Dallas Howard, whose Story could inspire protective feelings in a stone.

Taking a page from Shyamalan's own self-sabotaging stance of writing himself the role of mankind's savior and throwing in a dorky film critic, I'll say this much: Ignore the film critics on this movie. Yeah, I am one. Which means I'm telling you to ignore me, too. Just see it for yourself and decide whether it pleases you. If it does, I can say at least one critic agrees with you.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=14853&reviewer=416
originally posted: 05/08/07 06:23:05
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User Comments

9/14/17 morris campbell not bad imo 4 stars
2/07/17 Leires The movie was sitting on a TNT barrel. Love/hate stuff indeed. 3 stars
7/31/16 Jaekn Not worth the $5.00 to own in one of those superstore box deals 1 stars
3/17/16 Luisa Shyamalan needs to stop acting in his films, no onscreen charisma, it ruins the film 3 stars
5/19/14 JP Williams Standing ovation from a packed theater when my wife and I first saw this. Really enjoyable. 5 stars
3/12/14 Howard Mark Yes, I was in bed, tired as all get out, but my imagination was captured by the characters, 4 stars
7/09/13 Reptilesni Ordinary people become part of something extraordinary. I love this film. 5 stars
2/10/13 Langano If you don't take it so serious you just might enjoy the story. 4 stars
9/20/12 jenn thanks for this, my family and I love this movie. 4 stars
2/06/12 Monica S Charming, moving fairy tale . . . if you give it a chance. Wonderful acting. 4 stars
1/12/11 Perk Good movie. Very sweet fairytale. Might make u cry! Happy ending:) 5 stars
8/09/10 Eric Quite pleasant and a great deal of fun. Good work on storytelling. 4 stars
8/08/10 Bill P Surprisingly good! Great Giamatti! I've recommended it to friends. Surprised at the critic 4 stars
11/07/09 jimbob a picture for the evolved with wonderment, one of the best movies ever, you know i truth 5 stars
10/28/09 Steve I find myself watching it over and over each time it comes on. Flawed, but so enjoyable. 4 stars
6/21/09 JR Wow, so M. Night plays a gifted writer/ prophet who saves the world. My God, what an ego. 1 stars
3/17/09 :] wth...? 1 stars
3/08/09 Raul Valdez Jr not that bad 4 stars
2/21/09 ES Drew me in and kept me up late wanting to see what would happen, lots of great ideas n fun 4 stars
1/20/09 gLottis Giamatti was very genuine, and the film was enchanting 4 stars
1/13/09 Anonymous. one of the worst films i've ever seen. 1 stars
12/21/08 tain movie was interesting... best soundtrack EVER. 3 stars
12/05/08 Shaun Wallner Very Boring! 1 stars
10/23/08 Bonnie An adult fairytale to be sure, and not a bad one, but his true talet lies in scaring people 4 stars
10/13/08 g. just ok 3 stars
9/30/08 Tim Paul Giamatti's Cleveland Heep won me over as he struggled with the pain of his loss. 5 stars
9/28/08 Sean Imaginative and insightful into a fairytale. Absolutely beautiful. 4 stars
9/21/08 Callum It is a beautiful movie. A fairytale everyone should watch. 4 stars
7/25/08 Helden Multilayered & surprisingly satisfying...I enjoy every MNS film I see. 4 stars
7/25/08 jeanne Masturbatory, self-indulgent, utter bollocks! A criminal waste of Giamatti, Wright, Balaban 1 stars
6/22/08 David This film is a brilliant Myth. Dumbies don't get it. 5 stars
6/16/08 LordHat Very good. 5 stars
6/15/08 Casey When I told people who didn't like it, it was a fairytale, I saw a lightbulb go on 5 stars
6/14/08 Steph This movie could be an IQ test. The narrow-minded dim-wits will hate it. 5 stars
5/20/08 PAUL SHORTT IT HAS ALL THE SUBLETY OF A BRICK APPLIED TO THE HEAD 1 stars
3/25/08 John Smith Great film, great review - (not automatically biased as so many critics are!) 5 stars
2/09/08 Deltaboy49 This film has a big, big heart and is full of wonderment 5 stars
1/11/08 pablo Much better than all that Harry Potter nonsense 3 stars
10/02/07 Rick Utter failure, nothing intriguing or new about the ideas 1 stars
8/21/07 Jubei A mess of a film.Zemeckis would've made magic with this premise.Unnerving. 1 stars
8/14/07 Claire Beautifully un-cynical 5 stars
7/07/07 me crappy movie, made no sense 1 stars
7/01/07 Danielle Ophelia I didn't hate it, but I was constantly aware of its shortcomings. 3 stars
5/09/07 Charone Easily one of the dumbest movies I've ever seen in my entire life. 1 stars
4/19/07 zenshark Don't waste your time. 2 stars
4/02/07 Quigley Giamatti is excellent; this movie is not. The opening sequence is the best part 2 stars
3/28/07 fools♫gold OthehumorofShyamalan: castinghimselfastheimportantwriter"whosewordswon'tbeunderstood4years" 3 stars
3/03/07 David Pollastrini Bryce is hot! 2 stars
2/20/07 Stu Padasso It made me believe in people again. 4 stars
2/14/07 The chode Garbage. 1 stars
1/30/07 Indrid Cold A bold, unusual idea for a major studio movie, but it ends up muddled and boring. 3 stars
1/26/07 alice oh my god, this was so boring I could see dead people ! 1 stars
1/11/07 Tracey Chambers How quickly he believes shes something other than ordinary. Turned me off. 1 stars
1/01/07 Rubye Intriguing for those with imagination and magical souls 5 stars
12/28/06 grace yost it was great, excellent will watch it again and again 5 stars
12/15/06 Donny Martwick First half had so much potental. They should of had 100 wolfs and magic powers. 2 stars
12/04/06 Mike Self-indulgent 2 stars
9/27/06 Raj Its like having E Coli for dinner. VOMIT INDUCING CRAP! 1 stars
9/27/06 Erin Amidon ET meets SPLASH and both are utterly clueless as to what to do with each other! 2 stars
9/15/06 Ben The water in my toilet looks better than this! 1 stars
9/15/06 M Night Worth 2 C Not formula mainstream flick 4 stars
9/13/06 Poonam THE WORST FILM OF THE YEAR 1 stars
9/04/06 Jenny Um - The Village was better than this movie - if that tells you anything! 2 stars
9/03/06 Dragon The Artist Not too bad, a hell of a lot better than The Village,about as medieocre as Signs 3 stars
8/30/06 Killjoy Sleep inducing movie he made for his kids and we have to endure the torture! 1 stars
8/26/06 Stanley Thai Not one of M. Night's best but still a great film. 4 stars
8/25/06 Al Guy He's getting tiring. 2 stars
8/24/06 Chad Thomas M. Night has lost his mind! 1 stars
8/22/06 G Sherfy "Tepid" is apt; the world wisens to Night's trick that he's a good direc. 1 stars
8/18/06 KAREN MATLOCK very disappointing 2 stars
8/15/06 Rohit Shocker from the guy who made 'Sixth Sense' - Night gone mental here 1 stars
8/15/06 Becca totally blew ass. cried laughing. WORST MOVIE EVERRR. 1 stars
8/11/06 michael average and wait for the DVD 4 stars
8/10/06 melivorous Great Storytelling 4 stars
8/09/06 Dragon The Artist A hell of a lot better than that everso disappionting The Villiage, thats for sure!! 4 stars
8/06/06 Roadkill Report If you notice, at least in a dozen scenes in the move you can actually see the overhead mic 1 stars
8/06/06 Erik Van Sant Somebody peed in the pool. M. Night Shama-lama-ding-dong has flown the coop. 1 stars
8/05/06 nicklor24 one of my top 10 films, original and fantastic, check it out 5 stars
8/02/06 Forderve So different and original, it's a good fairy tale with deeper meaning than most movies 5 stars
8/02/06 Caddy One of the best movies I've ever seen. Too bad people are so cynical these days. 5 stars
8/02/06 Tim in VA A dreadfully boring and possibly drug-induced cinematic excretion. Two thumbs down. 1 stars
8/01/06 Luisa Great actors...bad movie...M.Knight is only getting worse...he needs to lose the ego... 2 stars
7/31/06 Marty original concept but obvious vendetta for critics. giamatti rocked. 3 stars
7/30/06 Sano Charming, Original...I liked it as well. 4 stars
7/29/06 Troy M. Grzych Held my interest but was a bit slow. I enjoyed the ride. 4 stars
7/28/06 Bad Critic Idea (Narphs and Scrunts) was retarded... but Giamatti was typical with a great performance 3 stars
7/25/06 Ole Man Bourbon Beyond ridiculous. Superlatively horrid. Egad. 1 stars
7/25/06 moondog cliché, tired, expected... worst movie I've ever seen 1 stars
7/24/06 Mark This deserves negative stars 1 stars
7/24/06 ahnold Still imaginitive, original and entertaining. 4 stars
7/24/06 Jay Yup this movie sucked big time. Oh and the Chinese woman is actually Korean. 1 stars
7/23/06 Roy Smith It's ridiculous...and I loved it. I'm strange, so sue me. 4 stars
7/22/06 David Hollingsworth It really doesn't make sense. 2 stars
7/22/06 Nightjorn crap movie crap movie crap movie 1 stars
7/22/06 scotty great movie great movie great movie 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  21-Jul-2006 (PG-13)
  DVD: 19-Dec-2006

UK
  18-Aug-2006

Australia
  07-Sep-2006




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