Movie: The Shape of Water
My Rating: 3 stars
This movie is an odd creature (no pun intended). The idea is so big and bizarre—a woman meets and falls in love with a merman at the top secret, scientific laboratory where she works. But, the story is also so small. It could be as simple as: a woman falls in love at work. I’d like to say that there’s more to the story than that. And, there are a couple of miniscule subplots featuring this woman’s best friend and neighbor. But, that really is the meat of it. I think the movie even intentionally highlights the small scale of this narrative by focusing in on the trivial, unchanging, daily routines each character has. The film really seems to be more about those banal rituals than it is about the fantastical creature the evil scientists have captured.
I’m not quite sure why the Academy went so bananas for this movie at the Oscars. It was up for all kinds of awards. But, I thought the movie was really just ok. Guillermo del Toro’s aesthetics are always so haunting and impressive. His imagery is so grotesque, and always a little frightening. But, he’s made plenty of other films that I thought were way better. I’m not sure why people chose this one in particular to triumph. The film is paced like a children’s fairy tale. And, I suppose this story really is supposed to be a modern fairy tale of sorts. But, it felt a bit out of place in the context of a feature film.
If I were to evaluate this movie based on the story alone, I would probably have rated it lower. But, I do have to balance than against my love for the artistic style of Guillermo del Toro. He really knows how to create magic with imagery. And, he manages to convey so much mood and tone with the aesthetics alone. His protagonists are presented in a style that feels very dilapidated, romantic, and European. Whereas the antagonists are displayed as bright, sterile, squeaky-clean, and vulgarly American. So much of the storytelling is accomplished with this use of artistic style. And, I always respect that in filmmaking. I’m not going to fault anyone who really enjoyed this movie. I can see what there is to like about it and can appreciate it for what it is. But, it didn’t happen to fall quite as deeply in love with it as other people did.