'The Shape of Water': Good Schlock at Best - Not Best Picture
Not the Worst and Not the Best
Going to the movies with filmmakers is rough. They pretty much hate everything they see. That's what I was up against when I "attended the cinema" to see The Shape of Water.
He dove in expecting to be immersed in a world expertly envisioned by Guillermo del Toro. On the other hand, I heard mixed responses but I deferred to him.
Cold War, Quasi Romance
In fact, I am quite susceptible to the opinions of others, and assumed he was enjoying the early 1960s, Cold War, quasi romantic setting. So I guess I was too.
The recreation of the black op national security site was well done. But the characters and Cold War politics were largely a patented cliche we've seen many times before.
The stakes revolve around the potential research value of the Black Lagoon-like creature, and the leg up it could provide across the iron curtain. So the creature is essentially expendable as both sides vie to possess it.
Michael Shannon plays the heavy, and while the hyper patriotism is inherent, the creature becomes a focal point in pursuit of personal career advancement. As a result, his ethno-species cruelty and soulless dehumanization of the aquaman is simply done to excess. But I allowed del Torro to take the easy way out, and in doing so, the formulaic theatrics didn't even bother me that much.
Love is in the Air
Enter the love interests. Elisa is a deaf mute cleaning lady at the facility. She lives in a loveless marriage to a failing commercial artist (Richard Jenkins). Twenty years her senior, gay, and barely surviving as photography has begun to supplant the painted image, he serves up the platonics.
Since Elisa’s well acquainted with water, where she masturbates in the tub every morning, the creature’s arrival kicks off the amore. Its meticulous fish suit and expressive features definitely brings you along as well. But among kindling romance, little attention is given to how the creature completely alters how we view life on Earth.
Plot Holes Forced on the Audience
Either way, a startling number of cleaning ladies inexplicably wield as much onsite access as the spooks that run the place. Sorry, I blame my friend for allowing me to be ok with such a dramatic oversight. (And spoiler alert, two maids hoodwinking the national security apparatus and smuggling the creature out in a laundry cart doesn’t quite work either)
In between, we conveniently digest abbreviated servings of homophobia and racism. Awkwardly infused, they lack any subtlety in reinforcing why the era is fertile ground to mistreat our fishy friend.
Nonetheless, I was compelled to stick with the overall love story and assumed my sidekick was with me. So when he suddenly walked out, only one thing occurred to me. When you got to go, you got to go.
On my own, I waited for the inevitable moment of truth. We either live happily ever after or sink beneath the waves. In this case, I was wondering if there might be a third option, because neither seemed that moving in wait.
But the final outcome coalesced for me in a single word—Interesting.
Best Picture or Schlock at Best?
I was going to have to think this one out. That is until my friend greeted me upon exit, and I learned the unsettling wasn’t in his stomach. This was the worst movie he’d ever seen, and he just couldn’t take it any longer.
Always impressionable, I was now forced to reevaluate and revisit the flaws I had already passed up. Trying to be my own person, I couldn’t ignore that I was strung along by the main storyline and arrived intact at the end. But at the same time, there really is nothing more to ponder.
So if you want to see a somewhat schlocky interspecies romance, go for it and feel free to enjoy yourself.
On the other hand, if you are expecting to see 2018’s Best Picture, I suggest finding a few billboards—three to be exact.
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