An imaginative "Lady in the Water"

July 23, 2006, midnight | By Boris Vassilev | 15 years, 2 months ago

Though slow, "Lady” is anything but dried up

"Lady in the Water," directed by M. Night Shymalan, tells the story of Cleveland Heep (Paul Giamatti), a reclusive building manager, and his discovery of a young woman in the pool of the apartment complex that he maintains. Cleveland pieces together her story, finding out that she is a storybook creature from another world called a "narf," and that she has a vital mission to fulfill.

"Lady in the Water" is essentially a fairy tale set in a modern world that bursts with fantastic elements. Adapted from a story that Shymalan wrote for his children, the strength of the movie lies within the characters and their interactions with one another, which often spawns laughter from the audience.

Giamatti delivers an exceptional performance as the stuttering, hermit of a building manager with a depressing past. He manages to capture the somber, solitary spirit that really defines the character of Cleveland, as he walks slowly from apartment to apartment to fix minor problems and submissively accepts everything thrown his way. In addition to Giamatti's performance, Bryce Dallas Howard, from The Village, plays an enchanting Story. She relies on her animated eyes to communicate to the audience, often left with no other medium for expression as the quiet and mysterious "narf."

As the movie progresses, Cleveland enlists the help of several of the apartment's residents to help him safeguard Story in her journey home. The tenants are truly original characters, all acutely different, giving rise to several delightful and quite humorous situations. In the opening, Cleveland is crouching in front of an open kitchen cabinet, repeatedly walloping an unseen insect, while the apartment's occupiers, a father and his 5 daughters, squeal and jump entertainingly with ever thwack, a scene which elicited more than few chuckles among the audience.

Despite excellent character performances, the plot moves slowly and occasionally takes too many directions at once without following them up. While mostly a fairy tale masterfully set in a humorous and modern atmosphere, the movie contains some sequences are certain to give even the less skittish viewers a fright. After directing several suspense movies such as "The Village" and "The Sixth Sense," Shymalan has a masterful control over these moments, often using visual cues and close-ups of the character's faces to build tension before releasing the strain in an explosive, often startling, instant. Although he directed beautifully, Shymalan's own role as an unsure writer with a great role to play in the future of mankind suggests an overactive ego on his part, which detracts from the overall satisfying viewing experience.

Though fairy tale to movie melds are often unsuccessful, this one comes close to success because it holds the audience's interest and masterfully translates the fairy tale feel of the original story to the big screen. Despite the setbacks and slow progression of plot, "Lady In The Water" is a fanciful fantasy with entertaining characters and a creative storybook plot worth sitting down to see.

Boris Vassilev. THIS IS BORIS'S FIRST BIO EVER! Squirrels in the Montgomery Blair area have recently filed a restraining order against Boris. He copped their nuts and borrowed their hairstyles. (Just look at his legs!) More »

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