Idol Chatter

In the last few days, I have found more articles debating what in the world has happened to director M. Night Shymalan’s career than I have found positive reviews about his latest movie, “Lady in the Water.” Not exactly good news if you are Shyamalan. And while I tried to keep an open mind, “Lady In The Water” is, in fact, yet another huge disappointment from someone who has created some truly iconic movie moments (and no, I am not referring to his last box-office bomb, “The Village”).

“Lady In The Water” is not a creepy thriller like the TV ads want you to think, and it is not quite a fantasy, like Shyamalan passionately insists it is in every interview he does about the movie. “Lady in the Water” is the tale of Story, a mythical creature who lives underneath the swimming pool of a suburban apartment complex, and is an odd mix of fairytale, drama, and not so-subtle commentary on everyone who has panned Shyamalan’s work in the past. Story is discovered by the unhappy and lonely apartment manager, Cleveland, and with his help, she fulfills her purpose by connecting with a struggling writer, way too conveniently played by Shymalan himself, who needs inspiration so he can finally write the story that will change our culture.

Once she has completed her mission, Story finds it difficult to return home due to a dangerous creature lurking in the nearby woods. With the help of a snarky movie critic, Cleveland rallies others in the apartment complex to help Story return to her home and live happily ever after.

And while many critics are ranting and raving about Shyamalan’s ego overtaking his talent–really, was there no room left in the budget to cast another actor, any actor, for Shyamalan’s part in the movie?–I have to say one thing in defense of “Lady in the Water” and Shyamalan himself. As I watched this movie, I had no doubt that Shyamalan truly loves telling stories and sincerely believes in the spiritual power of telling stories to shape our culture. In fact, one of the many problems with “Lady In the Water” is that he beats us over the head with this sentiment at every turn.

In a recent interview where he was reflecting on the power of writers to shape events, Shyamalan said, “It’s a beautiful thing and an empowering thing to be able to hear, if you could, the beauty of the spiral of things that happen. If God could tell you when you die, ‘This is what you did,’ it would be so cool.” Nice sentiment. So I’ll just keep the faith that his next movie might yet find Shyamalan back in top storytelling style.

(If you want to read two other interesting opinions about Shyamalan’s latest, go here and here. And if you want to watch a wonderful but underrated Shyamalan film from his early days as an unknown director, go rent the little-seen “Wide Awake.”)

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