M. Night Shyamalan used to mean must see in our house. He creates films that make my family think, while giving us a good time. He has managed to create films that the morally traditional who are not prigs can enjoy. His best films (Signs! The Village!) frighten as Doyle or Poe would frighten with intelligent writing instead of CG effects.
It is no accident that Wheatstone Academy used The Village to discuss film and pop culture last year. It raised important issues of community and values that most other movies are afraid to ask. We will not be doing the same with Lady in the Water.
John Mark Reynolds is the founder and director of the Torrey Honors Institute, and Associate Professor of Philosophy, at Biola University. His personal website can be found at www.johnmarkreynolds.com and his blog can be found at www.johnmarkreynolds.info.
Why did M. Night Shyamalan think he could make a movie with a story that he was making up as he went along? The Lady has a script so messy, but is filmed so beautifully that when it ended I assumed I had missed something. Surely, no movie by M. Night Shyamalan could be this bad. It telegraphed its ending and it introduced plot twists without building up to them.
In the Village, you felt any plot surprise was natural to the story. In Lady, you could hear Shyamalan saying, “Cool. Let’s try this.”
Reviews on the web keep using terms like “self-indulgent.” I doubt that. It felt more “tired” as in “I am on a roll and my backers, and hungry family, want more movies from me. Better strike while the iron is hot, but I am out of stories to tell.” so M. Night Shyamalan decided to cannibalize his bed time stories to his children from plot. That works when you are Tolkien, but it turns out that Shyamalan is no Tolkien.
The acting in the film is very good. . . both Ron Howard’s daughter, Bryce Howard, and an eccentric Paul Giamatii are very good. Any given moment of the film is beautiful with Howard often looking like an icon of the Blessed Virgin and the Dante-like ending (Saint Lucy!) nearly redeeming the film.
But the Eagle that comes at the end of the film feels like part of a pointless universe, not like the Eagle of the Comedy with its mythic roots or even Bilbo’s Eagle in the Hobbit. M. Night Shyamalan looks like he is in search of truth, goodness, and beauty and has decided to find it in his own head.
Since his head is full of clever ideas and at least does not seem stripped of myth like most Hollywood types, even this film has merits. However, these merits are not worth the money for a first run viewing and only merit a “dollar theater” run if you want to see pieces of a good movie. Feel free to get pop corn, in this movie the sum is less than the parts.
The box office suggest I am not alone. CRO