Posted by: viewfromtheriva | March 5, 2018

Sorry, Oscar. The Shape of Water sinks under its own weight

Now that the winners have been announced, having seen most of the nominated films, I thought I would put in my two cents.

How The Shape of Water even got nominated is still a mystery to me.  We’ve seen this idea many times before, with much better story-telling and character development, like Beauty and the Beast and so many other films.  But this clumsy effort is simply Hollywood movie making at its worst…..a total mish-mash of ideas resulting in an incoherent mess; poorly edited; wretched script and pardon the pun, “watery” direction.

Let’s begin with the noir paranoid 50’s setting.  Even as a metaphor it’s so lame, because clearly the “monster” and the 1950’s have little to do with each other–it’s simply del Toro’s whim of putting his story inside a 50’s envelope.

But does it drive the story?  No, it actually detracts.

Consider this, if the time frame was in another period, say the 80’s, would the essence of the film still make sense?  Of course.

But del Toro’s decision to use the 50’s not only makes no sense, it takes us far away from the fantasy.

Instead of developing the fantasy, del Toro’s decides to spend the majority of time showing us 50’s paranoia and even super clean 50’s cars since the owners who rent them to the studio won’t allow them to look “used”–and then goes even further away from the story by bringing us into the house and life of the monster’s captor–why?  To create tension?  To show us how paranoid he really is compared to the sweet Sally Hawkins, the movie’s heroine?

Michael Shannon, as the monster’s tormentor, really deserved an Oscar!

And the terrible monster?  We’re led to believe that this creature is a threat to humanity.  With typical Hollywood nonsense, we get to see cheesy “top security” vault where the caged beast is transported to and then all sorts of further nonsense with the military and others stewing about what to do with him.

But when we finally see the monster, whoaa–a cartoon character worthy of Marvel.  Humanioid with goggles over his eyes?

Is this the best the director can do?

Girl meets monster….sorry, we are NOT afraid

And instead of a subtle nuance, we get it all telegraphed:  the heroine is deaf and the monster can’t talk.  She is all empathy surrounded by evil, except for her stereotypical girl friend, whose dialogue sure ain’t 50’s!

Teaching the monster to say the word “lemon” is treated like some profound moment of a connection between a love-starved woman and an alien.


On and an on and on this film goes trying to create some sort of tension and real mystery when we know from the very first encounter they will clearly be together, and having telegraphed the gill slits, clearly, she will get hers.

I hope he loves lemons!

So of course, we have to watch the monster be repeatedly brutalized by his paranoid captor—but for what purpose?  Since this is just another gratuitous directorial whim, of course, the director lets us know that the result of all this “torture” is simply to set up the finale, which again is so telegraphed and poorly staged, it’s almost laughable.

Indeed the decision to kill the beast rather than actually stop torturing it to find out it if is sentient comes as no surprise.

Since there is clearly no interest in keeping him alive, and knowing he can be kept as calm as a pussycat with a simple electric cattle prod, why all the security, secrecy and torture?

The monster surely could have been much more developed.  We are shown that he has tremendous powers, but then somehow is unable to even get out of his tank?

At one point he is being kept alive in a bathtub, but “is dying” and needs to get back to the sea OR ELSE!!

But of course, somehow before he does, he miraculously recovers to save the day, surrounded by what looks like the entire city police force–who just as miraculously, with a clear kill shot, simply stand around like stage hands doing nothing since the director just wants the scene to look meaningful.

I mean it’s one thing to suspend belief because, hey, it’s a fantasy.  But with such a thin story to hold the film together, continuing to immerse us in such detailed 50’s noir “reality” takes what little juice is left and leaves us yawning,.

Where oh where is the editing in this film?

The only bright spot belongs to Michael Shannon, whose over the top sadism is remarkable–a fabulous performance by any standard.  But who gets the nomination? Richard Jenkins, a wonderful actor, who cheerfully breezes through his lines as if he was in an entirely different film!

Sorry Oscar, but The Shape of Water sinks under its own weight.



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