Also opening here in the Valley this weekend:
The Shape of Water—Sally Hawkins stars in this romantic fantasy from the
great Guillermo del Toro. She plays Elisa, a mute foundling orphan with scars
on her neck who lives in an apartment over a movie theater in Baltimore in the early ‘60s. She gratifies
herself in the bathtub as part of her daily ablutions, then brings food to her
neighbor Giles (Richard Jenkins), a lonely gay commercial illustrator, before
leaving for her janitorial job in the bowels of a sinister research facility.
It’s at her job that she finds love, in the form of an elegantly segmented
and finned Gill-man (Doug Jones). The “Amphibious Man” as the movie designates
him, originated in a river in South America,
where the natives worshipped him as a god.
He was captured by Strickland (Michael Shannon), a repressed, fanatical
government agent who refers to him as “the asset” and wants to vivisect him for
whatever Cold War advantages his body might yield. Elisa, Giles, her coworker
Zelda (Octavia Spencer) and a shady but sympathetic scientist (Michael
Stuhlbarg) work to liberate the Amphibious Man, and along the way Elisa discovers
her sexual passion for him.
Del Toro claims that as a child, he wanted to see the Creature of the Black
Lagoon get the girl. This movie is the result, and it fulfilled that wish for
me, too—I can also remember feeling a pang for the Creature’s romantic
optimism. So I’m not the fellow to resist The
Shape of Water. Like Peter Jackson’s King
Kong, it turns a story of unrequited love into a story of requited love.
But if it doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, if it all sounds terribly
self-consciously whimsical and twee and self-delighted, then I can only tell
you that, with as much objectivity as I can muster, it doesn’t come off that
way at all to me. Del Toro earns his poetic passages by linking them with
robust, gutsy storytelling. If it weren’t for some gore and sexual frankness,
it might have made a great children’s movie.
It’s not a subtle film, admittedly; del Toro pushes his motifs, like the
color green or the hydrophilic ubiquity of water, very hard. And the
characterizations, especially that of Shannon’s
furious reactionary g-man, are similarly broad-stroke. But the performances
make them real people, and the story takes hold, as a romantic-erotic daydream
merged with a period thriller merged with, in the most literal sense, a
Fair warning, though: This movie includes the fairly gruesome death of an
animal. In the context of the story it makes perfect sense, and it helps to
counteract the movie’s potential sentimentality, but for animal lovers
sensitive to such things, this won’t matter at all.
Friday, December 8, 2017
Posted by M.V. MOORHEAD at 4:59 PM
Labels: DOUG JONES, GUILLERMO DEL TORO, MICHAEL SHANNON, MICHAEL STUHLBARG, OCTAVIA SPENCER, RICHARD JENKINS, SALLY HAWKINS, THE SHAPE OF WATER REVIEW
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