Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Starring: Paul Giamatti, Bryce Dallas Howard, Bob Balaban, Jeffrey Wright, Sarita Choudhury, Freddy Rodriquez, Bill Irwin and Jared Harris
Lady in the Water plays like a modern fairy tale, meandering through familiar plot points with nothing really sticking. This is one of the weakest films Shyamalan has ever made. It’s borderline pretentious, with him casting himself as a world-changing writer and an entire plot point of a know-it-all critic who get’s it wrong and wastes half an hour of the run time before dying violently.
Everyone is doing their best with the script they’re given, but the characters just fall flat without any real impact. The whole group lives in an apartment complex and are all oddballs. There’s someone who is only working out with one side of his body, an animal lover who can attract all animals, a puzzle expert that does nothing but crosswords when on screen. They are given distinct character points, but beyond that there is nothing there. It’s hard to stay invested in the film when Shyamalan spends more time focusing on critics that were harsh on him previously, than building a fantastical plot.
The film already moves at a slow pace, going for a more tranquil and sweet story than something action-packed. Cleveland Heep (Paul Giamatti), the superintendent for the apartment complex where all of the story takes place, is given the task of finding the people who are connected to the magical world, when they don’t realise it. When he is first given the task, he speaks to the film critic who has recently moved in, and he tells him who they would be and is wrong about it. It takes way too long to go through this misdirection, and ends up just being boring. The critic is then attacked by the mythical creature, known as a Scrunt, while at the same time narrating his final moments, but is wrong again about how it goes down. It’s a bit too on the nose.
The score, by frequent Shyamalan collaborator James Newton Howard is fantastic. It’s full blown fantastical and sweeping through each scene. The music is the only great thing about the otherwise dull film. Howard won a few awards for the score, and deservedly so.
Lady in the Water is a really nice concept, with a really sweet idea at the centre. Ultimately, it’s presented in a really dull and boring way. The film drags all the way through, never really doing anything special. The characters are so lifeless that it’s hard to stay engaged. It’s no stretch that this is Shyamalan’s worst film.