Film Review: Lady in the Water (2006)

Bryce Dallas Howard

A loner finds a water nymph in a swimming pool? How did that pitch meeting go? “Okay imagine this, it’s like Splash! but on barbiturates!”

Should I see it?
It is M. Night Shamalamadingdong, so no.

Director/Writer: M. Night Shyamalan

Starring: Paul Giamatti, Bryce Dallas Howard, Jeffrey Wright, Bob Balaban and Freddy Rodríguez

Rated PG-13 for imagery

When The Sixth Sense hit in 1999, M. Night Shamalamadingdong was quickly cited as being the next Spielberg. Thanks to self-indulgent, pompous, snore-fests like this outing, those breathless proclamations have been silenced. Honestly, who thought this was a good idea? A loner finds a water nymph in a swimming pool? How did that pitch meeting go? “Okay imagine this, it’s like Splash! but on barbiturates!

Cleveland Heep (Paul Giamatti), an apartment building superintendent with a name straight out of an undergrad creative writing assignment, finds the aforementioned nymph (Bryce Dallas Howard) in his swimming pool. She’s mystical and special and he’s a depressed mess. She needs his protection from a growling dog like lump in the grass that attacks her randomly as the film progresses. It turns out the watery tart is here to help a human write a book that will help save the world. Too bad she wasn’t showing up to help M. Night when he was writing the script.

Paul Giamatti Bryce Dallas Howard
So, this liquidy lass needs protecting because, as I mentioned, she is being threatened by the….. ………. ………. ……… ….lllllll llllllllllll llllllllllllllllll kkkkkkkllkklll llllll…

Sorry, I feel asleep on the keyboard. You’ll have to excuse me. This is cinematic melatonin.

If you can look past the forced plot and false sense of urgency, you will find some nice little moments. Unfortunately, nice little moments do not make a good film. Shamalamadingdong does have talent, he simply can’t help but get in his own way with his poor storytelling. The apartment building is filled with interesting characters, or more accurately, caricatures, sure. It would have been nice to also get us to care about them. In fairness, he does make Cleveland’s world feel natural and the character of Cleveland Heep himself is mostly interesting. There is enough there to help the always great Paul Giamatti as he does his best to spare the production from its inept script. His Atlas-like feat of carrying this film deserves praise.

Bryce Dallas Howard

A quick aside: Shamalamadingdong once again cast himself in his own film because apparently filling his quiver with the sharpest arrows wasn’t his biggest concern. Note to directors – STOP CASTING YOURSELF IN YOUR OWN MOVIES, YOU SELF-IMPORTANT GOOFS. You guys aren’t Hitchcock. It ain’t cute. It ain’t clever. We know who you are and seeing you in your film brings everything to a stop and for what? To feed your ego?  It’s worse than when they shoehorn Stan Lee into those Marvel cinematic carnival rides. Your high budget selfies are distracting and off-putting, you may as well be mooning the camera. Stop it.

Speaking of stopping it, that’s all you will want to do if you make the mistake of starting up this ill-conceived waste. Don’t bother.

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