Lady in the Water

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Lady in the Water
Ladyinthewater pos gal.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by M. Night Shyamalan
Produced by Sam Mercer
M. Night Shyamalan
Written by M. Night Shyamalan
Starring Paul Giamatti
Bryce Dallas Howard
Bob Balaban
Jeffrey Wright
Sarita Choudhury
Cindy Cheung
Narrated by David Ogden Stiers
Music by James Newton Howard
Cinematography Christopher Doyle
Edited by Barbara Tulliver
Production
company
Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures
Release dates
  • July 21, 2006 (2006-07-21)
Running time 109 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $70 million[2]
Box office $72,785,169[2]

Lady in the Water is a 2006 American fantasy thriller film written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan and starring Paul Giamatti and Bryce Dallas Howard. The film follows a Philadelphia maintenance man who discovers a young woman in the swimming pool of his apartment complex. Gradually, he and his neighbors learn that she is a water nymph whose life is in danger from a vicious, wolf-like, mystical creature that tries to keep her from returning to her watery "blue world".

This is Shyamalan's first movie in which he has played a significant role, as one of the supporting actors. The film received overwhelmingly unfavorable reviews from film critics,[3][4] who mostly criticized its lack of consistency and characterization. The film was also a financial disappointment grossing merely $72 million against a $70 million production budget barely recouping its production cost making the film a loss.

Plot[edit]

One evening, Cleveland Heep (Paul Giamatti), who became a handyman at a Philadelphia apartment complex after his family was murdered, discovers Story (Bryce Dallas Howard), a naiad-like character (called a Narf) from the Blue World, in his building's pool, immediately rescuing her from an attack by a "Scrunt",[5] a grass-covered lupine that lies preternaturally flat.

Story is here to find a specific writer whose book will better humanity's future. After questioning residents Farber (Bob Balaban), Bell (Mary Beth Hurt), Dury (Jeffrey Wright), and five nameless smokers, Heep discovers the author, Vick Ran (M. Night Shyamalan), who is writing The Cookbook, containing views and ideas so significant they will inspire a future President, a great Midwestern orator, to greatly change the world for the better. Ran meeting Story eliminates his fear and sharpens his inner voice, but he learns he will be assassinated because of the controversial nature of his ideas.

The Tartutic, an invincible simian trio that serve as the Blue World's peacekeepers, have forbidden that Story be attacked while returning home. The Scrunt nonetheless does just that, as Story is destined to be a great leader as well. To return safely, she will now need the help of a Symbolist, Guardian, Guild, and Healer. Story believes Heep to be her Guardian; Heep asks Farber, a West Coast émigré turned film critic, to help him figure out the others' identities. Working off movie tropes, Farber misadvises Heep, leading him to a flawed conclusion that a logophile named Dury is the Symbolist, a group of misfit "tokers" are the Guild, and a woman who cares for stray animals named Bell is the Healer.

Heep asks Story how to "practice" for the confrontation but nearly dies in the process, convincing him he's not the Guardian. The next night, Farber's bad advice leads to their plan's immediate failure. In the confusion, Farber is killed and Story is mortally wounded by the Scrunt. Dury suddenly realizes his son Joey (Noah Gray-Cabey) is the Symbolist. Interpreting the information on cereal boxes, Joey deduces the true Guild is composed of seven sisters, that two new men must be present, and that the Healer is male, soon revealed to be Heep. He goes about healing Story by "bringing forth [his] energy" (his suppressed grief). Story's departure starts again, but the Scrunt attacks; it is stopped by the gaze of Reggie (Freddy Rodríguez), a lopsidedly muscled tenant who is the true Guardian. Reggie's gaze, capable of compelling the Scrunt to slowly retreat, is distracted by the cry of the Great Eatlon, a giant eagle who will ferry Story home. When Reggie breaks eye contact, the Scrunt leaps, but the Tartutic arrive and drag it away. Heep thanks Story for saving his life as she hugs him goodbye. The Great Eatlon lands, enfolds Story in one of its wings, and takes flight. Each tenant watches as she is ferried into the storm.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

The film was originally planned to be produced for Walt Disney Studios, like Shyamalan's previous four films, but was rejected. Shyamalan was reportedly angry about the rejection and presented the project to Warner Bros., who agreed to make the film. The events that led to the making of the film were featured in a book, The Man Who Heard Voices, by Michael Bamberger.[6][7][8]

Shyamalan established a production facility at the Jacobson Logistics warehouse site in nearby Levittown, Pennsylvania, where sets for the apartment complex and a half-city block of row houses were built. Occasional footage was shot inside the overflow area of the warehouse. Most of the filming was completed after work hours.

Music[edit]

Having already formulated ideas for the score the previous year, James Newton Howard wrote it during the early part of 2006, and the orchestral score was recorded over a period of four days in May by the 91-piece Hollywood Studio Symphony.[9]

Soundtrack[edit]

Lady in the Water
Film score by James Newton Howard
Released July 18, 2006
Label Decca
Producer Amanda Ghost
Tom Herbers
Oliver Leiber
James Newton Howard chronology
Freedomland Lady in the Water
(2006)
Blood Diamond
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 3.5/5 stars[10]
Filmtracks 5/5 stars
SoundtrackNet 4/5 stars

The soundtrack was composed by James Newton Howard. The last four tracks are non-soundtrack Bob Dylan covers from singer/songwriter Amanda Ghost, Indie rock band A Whisper in the Noise, and rock 'n' roll revivalists Silvertide. Howard won the IFMCA Award for Best Film Score for Lady in the Water in 2006, as well as the awards for Best Original Score for a Fantasy/Science Fiction/Horror Film, and Best Single Cue of 2006 for "The Great Eatlon"[11]

  1. "Prologue"
  2. "The Party"
  3. "Charades"
  4. "Ripples In The Pool"
  5. "The Blue World"
  6. "Giving The Kii"
  7. "Walkie Talkie"
  8. "Cereal Boxes"
  9. "Officer Jimbo"
  10. "The Healing"
  11. "The Great Eatlon"
  12. "End Titles"
  13. "The Times They Are A-Changin'" – A Whisper in the Noise
  14. "Every Grain of Sand" - Amanda Ghost
  15. "It Ain't Me Babe" – Silvertide
  16. "Maggie's Farm" – Silvertide

Reception[edit]

Box office[edit]

In its opening weekend (July 21–23, 2006), the film grossed a total of $18.2 million, placing third in the United States box office results for that weekend. It was Shyamalan's lowest opening for any of his five major films. As a result of the negative reviews and poor word-of-mouth, its second week fell sharply to $7.1 million, pushing its total to only $32.2 million. Its third weekend was no better, falling another 62.1% to $2.7 million. As of 2011, its total was $42.285 million.[2] In addition, the film made only $30.5 million in the foreign box office,[2] pulling its tally to approximately $72.785 million internationally.[2]

Critical reaction[edit]

Lady in the Water was critically panned around the time of its release, having an overall rating of 24% on the review conglomerate Rotten Tomatoes.[4] At Metacritic the film scored a 36, based on 36 reviews.[3] Of Shyamalan's role in the film, Mark Kermode said, "It's like someone pouring petrol over their heads and setting fire to themselves."[12]

Variety magazine wrote a scathing advance review that appeared on July 16, 2006. Common complaints about the film were that little effort was put into getting the viewer to believe in the world, that few moments of the film could be taken seriously, and that Shyamalan was using the film as a form of self-indulgence; instead of having a minor cameo, as in most of his films, Shyamalan cast himself as a visionary whose writing changes the world, and another character included a film critic — portrayed by actor Bob Balaban as arrogant, self-assured, and passive — who comes to a violent end. Many reviewers attacked this perceived self-indulgence: Manohla Dargis of The New York Times wrote of the story, "Apparently those who live in the water now roam the earth trying to make us listen, though initially it’s rather foggy as to what precisely we are supposed to hear —the crash of the waves, the songs of the sirens, the voice of God —until we realize that of course we're meant to cup our ear to an even higher power: Mr. Shyamalan."[13]

Frank Lovece of Film Journal International said, "Fans of actor Paul Giamatti or of filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan may get something out of Lady in the Water, a fractured fairy tale about a water nymph who comes to a Philadelphia apartment house to deliver an important message. Anyone else is likely to be perplexed by the muddled mythmaking or actively astonished at the self-indulgent ego of a writer-director-producer who casts himself in the role of a visionary writer whose martyrdom will change the world."[14]

Michael Medved gave Lady in the Water one and a half stars (out of four) calling it, "...a full-out, flamboyant cinematic disaster, a work of nearly unparalleled arrogance and vapidity," adding that, "...Lady in the Water is all wet...".[15]

Also panned was the fact that the film was based on a bedtime story Shyamalan told to his children; Pete Vonder Haar of Film Threat commented: "If Shyamalan is going to use his kids as a focus group for future projects, maybe he should start making movies for Nickelodeon already and stop wasting our time."[16] Shyamalan went on to direct a film adaptation of Nickelodeon's Avatar: The Last Airbender television series, which also received overwhelmingly negative reviews.

CNN's Tom Charity, among many, many others, has called Lady in the Water the worst film of 2006.[17] It was listed by Variety as one of the ten "biggest (financial) losers" of 2006.[18][19] Wesley Morris of The Boston Globe wrote that though the film is "built on too much ponderous self-regard...[t]here is a good chunk of Lady in the Water that is simply too well made and affectingly acted to dismiss as a mere exercise in arrogance."[20]

Conversely, the film was ranked 6th in the influential film magazine Cahiers du cinéma's top ten films of 2006, above films such as Terrence Malick's The New World.[21]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Award Category Subject Result
Teen Choice Awards Choice Summer Movie - Drama/Action-Adventure Nominated
Young Artist Awards Best Young Actor - Ten or Under Noah Gray-Cabey Nominated
Golden Raspberry Awards Worst Picture Sam Mercer Nominated
M. Night Shyamalan Nominated
Worst Screenplay Nominated
Worst Director Won
Worst Supporting Actor Won
Stinkers Bad Movie Awards Worst Picture Sam Mercer Nominated
M. Night Shyamalan Nominated
Worst Screenplay Nominated
Worst Director Nominated
Worst Supporting Actress Cindy Cheung Won
Most Annoying Fake Accent - Female Won
Worst Ensemble The entire cast Nominated
Least Scary Horror Movie Sam Mercer Won
M. Night Shyamalan Won

Home media[edit]

The film was released simultaneously on DVD, HD DVD, and Blu-ray by Warner Home Video on December 19, 2006. Lady in The Water is the only M. Night Shyamalan film that was ever released on HD DVD.

Novelization[edit]

Lady in the Water, A Bedtime Story children's book
Children's book

Shyamalan, who credits the development of the movie to a bedtime story he told his children about what happens in their pool at night,[22] wrote the 72-page children's book Lady in the Water: A Bedtime Story (Little, Brown, New York, ISBN 0-316-01734-5) to coincide with the movie. The book's illustrations were made by Crash McCreery. It was released on the same day as the film, on July 21, 2006.

The book describes the narf, scrunt, Tartutic, and Eatlon, in detail, their roles are identical to those in the film. The book includes details not present in the film and omits others: additional details include the description of the sensations experienced by a vessel upon its awakening and the suggestion that a narf's presence activates the lawn sprinklers. The roles of Madame Narf, Healer, Symbolist, Guild, and Guardian are only suggested and not stated openly.

The tone of the book resembles in some respects that of Chris Van Allsburg's The Mysteries of Harris Burdick, sharing with it an air of unnerving mystery and a similar pace.

The Man Who Heard Voices

The Man Who Heard Voices (Gotham Books, New York, ISBN 1-59240-213-5), by Sports Illustrated writer Michael Bamberger, recounting the making of the film, was released July 20, 2006.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Lady in the Water (PG)". British Board of Film Classification. 2006-07-26. Retrieved 2011-10-09. 
  2. ^ a b c d e "Lady in the Water (2006)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved December 27, 2012. 
  3. ^ a b "Lady in the Water (2006): Reviews". Metacritic. CNET Networks, Inc. Retrieved 2010-05-05. 
  4. ^ a b Lady in the Water on rottentomatoes.com
  5. ^ "MNightFans.com – Lady in the Water – Mythology, The Blue World, Narf, Scrunt, Tartutic". M. Night Shyamalan Fans. Archived from the original on 2008-05-05. Retrieved 2009-10-11. 
  6. ^ Brian Lowry, Lady in the Water, Variety, July 16, 2006, Accessed May 10, 2008.
  7. ^ Peter Travers, Lady in the Water, Rolling Stone, July 20, 2006, Accessed May 10, 2008.
  8. ^ Sink or Swim, Entertainment Weekly, July 7, 2006, accessed May 10, 2008.
  9. ^ Goldwasser, Dan (2006-05-14). "James Newton Howard scores Lady in the Water". ScoringSessions.com. Retrieved 2009-01-01. 
  10. ^ Lady in the Water at AllMusic
  11. ^ IFMCA Award (2006). "Awards and Winners 2006"
  12. ^ BBC – Five Live MARK KERMODE
  13. ^ The New York Times (July 2006) "Finding Magic Somewhere Under the Pool in Lady in the Water" by Manohla Dargis
  14. ^ Film Journal International Lady in the Water, by Frank Lovece
  15. ^ Michael Medved's Eye On EntertainmentLady In The Water Review
  16. ^ Film Threat Review
  17. ^ CNN.com – The best (and worst) films of the year, December 28, 2006
  18. ^ Variety.com – 2006: Hollywood diagnosis, Sunday, December 24, 2006.
  19. ^ World (Aug. 19, 2006): "A thrillertale: Middle Earth and Philadelphia collide in Lady in the Water," by Harrison Scott Key
  20. ^ The Boston Globe (July 21, 2006): "Fractured Fairy Tale," by Wesley Morris
  21. ^ http://alumnus.caltech.edu/~ejohnson/critics/cahiers.html
  22. ^ JoBlo.com (June 26, 2006) – "Early Lady Review!" by Mike Sampson

External links[edit]