Lady In the Water

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Entertainment: +3

Content: +3

Paul Giamatti, Bryce Dallas Howard, Bob Balaban, Jeffrey Wright, Sarita Choudhury. Writer-Director: M. Night Shyamalan.

The mundane life of apartment complex manager Cleveland Heep (Paul Giamatti) changes when he discovers a mysterious young woman named Story (Bryce Dallas Howard) living in the pool. Cleveland learns that Story is a narf a nymph-like character from an epic bedtime story who is being stalked by vicious creatures determined to prevent her from making the journey from our world back to hers. Storys unique powers of perception reveal the fates of Clevelands fellow tenants, whose destinies are tied directly to her own, and they must work together to decipher a series of codes that will unlock the pathway to her freedom. Im a fan of M. Night Shyamalan because he incorporates spiritual themes and metaphors into his always involving scripts. Lady in the Water is no exception. While Signs had a more profound effect on me because of its thoughtful themes, which were clearly related to New Testament resolves, Lady in the Water is a vague grownup fairy tale satisfied with raising questions rather than giving clear-cut directions.

Some in the Christian community may perceive this fantasy/thriller as more New Age than biblical parable. True, it would have been great had there been at least one proclamation pointing to Christian dogma, but it is not New Age. Its just not overtly Christian in perspective. The filmmaker evidently felt it was his duty merely to raise questions: Could we be worthy? Could there be purpose in our mundane lives? Could we, faulty as we are, offer something worthwhile to those around us? He is bringing up matters that pertain to the soul, leaving the ball in our court. We are thus given an opportunity to show spiritual seekers where the Bible answers the questions raised in this film.

Lady in the Water is not blemish free, nor is it as savvy as the filmmaker intended. While the tale is a bit too convoluted, its elements of fantasy, suspense and eeriness each seem skin deep. Its not Hitchcock. Its Hitchcock Lite. Still, it is a step above the disappointing thrillers of late, which rely heavily upon the darkness of mans nature and the overindulgence of special effects departments to further their narrative. Whats more, this one is made fun by the endearing performances. Bryce Dallas Howard (Rons daughter) is elfin-like, resembling the ethereal quality of Sissy Spaceks Carrie. And Paul Giamatti (cheated out of an Oscar nomination for his work in Sideways) is becoming the new Jack Lemmon, the everyman actor. The screening audience was mesmerized, as was I, with its combo of spooky jolts, touching drama and ever present sharp-witted humor.

Fun note: the filmmaker gets back at us film critics. As the audience gets to know a new member of the complex, a buffoonish book and film reviewer, they come to see how shallow and unsound he is despite his blowhard observances. Evidently Mr. Shyamalan didnt appreciate our views of The Village.

Preview Reviewer: Phil Boatwright
Warner Brothers

The following categories contain objective listings of film content which contribute to the subjective numeric Content ratings posted to the left and on the Home page.

Crude Language: I caught none.

Obscene Language: Two or three minor expletives, but no harsh language.

Profanity: three or four uses of the expression oh my god.

Violence: The heroine is attacked three times by a barely seen force. This violence is not graphically depicted. There is a menacing force that takes on the appearance of a wolf. A man is attacked by this wolf-like villain. The scene cuts away just before he is brutalized. Blood: Some bloody scratch marks are seen on the heroines legs.

Sex: None. One sexy female is seen walking away from the camera, the camera close on her bottom.

Nudity: The female lead, something like a mermaid is supposed to be nude, but the male lead is a gentleman and covers her up. She is bare-legged throughout, but not in an exploitive manner.

Sexual Dialogue/Gesture: None

Drugs: Some characters smoke and a few people are seen drinking at a party.

Other: The film receives its rating for the shock scariness and adult themes. It is not a movie for little ones.

Running Time: 110 minutes
Intended Audience: Teens and Adults

Click HERE for a PRINTER-FRIENDLY version of this review.