Mar 12, 2018

[Movies] The Shape of Water (2017) Review

The Shape of Water now has the record of being the first fantasy movie to win the Academy Award for Best Picture since The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, but versus the many other fantasy movies that have come before it (including those also directed by Guillermo Del Toro) it seems a somewhat odd choice. But I guess this is what happens when you add some old Hollywood romanticism into a narrative format?

The Shape of the Water is an odd romantic drama between a woman who cannot speak and a fish-like humanoid "monster", for lack of a better term. It's sort of your classic meeting of two different worlds with a forbidden love but with a movie monster twist to things.

There are a lot of parts of this movie that work and you can tell there's a lot of love and care that went into the cinematography and other shots for this movie. The story is simple but still good and a nice enough romance. It's easy to find things to love about this movie. But it's not perfect either.

Synopsis: The Shape of Water is a fantasy drama movie written and directed by Guillermo Del Toro together with co-writer Vanessa Taylor. The movie won Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Score and Best Production Design among other awards and nominations across various award-giving bodies.

Elisa Esposito (Sally Hawkins) was orphaned as a child and also rendered mute due to a strange accident. She works as a cleaning woman in some secret government facility during the Cold War. She's a bit of a social recluse, something not helped by her being mute. Thus her main companions in life are Giles (Richard Jenkins ), the unlucky advertising illustrator who lives in the same cinema building that she lives in, and Zelda (Octavia Spencer) a fellow cleaining woman who also acts as her interpreter when needed.

One day a special speciment is brought into the facility and this turns out to be an amphibian man (played by Doug Jones), who is mainly refered to as "The Asset" in the movie, especially by the primary handler Colonel Strickland (Michael Shannon). It is revealed that they hope to learn more about how the creature is able to breath both underwater and on land in order to help their efforts of figuring out how to put Americans in space. But beyond that Elisa eventually makes contact with the creature and the two begin to bond over the course of the story.

What I Liked: The movie has a lot of interesting moments and an overall effort to subvert the old Hollywood romance genre by throwing in a merman creature into the mix. There are a lot of out of this world fantastical moments including the opening underwater sequence and the now iconic movie poster moment. There's a lot of styling to this movie that helps elevate it into something quite beautiful indeed.

Sally Hawkins was an interesting choice for the protagonist and I think she did a tremendous job of conveying her characters growing affections for the amphibian man. At the same time I think we should give some credit to Doug Jones who has once again donned a strange costume for a fish man and did his best to act the heck out of things while wearing it. That's no small feat and yet the two seemed to have some decent chemistry on-screen.

What Could Have Been Better: Given how the movie began with a rather amazing underwater dream sequence, it was rather disappointing how Elisa's dreams did not factor into things more. I think this could have helped further explain her character and perhaps provide more of a basis for her infatuation with the creature outside her one passionate speech to Zelda about what the monster makes her feel. Beyond the Hollywood song and dance number, her dreams didn't factor into things beyond the opening.

The movie also seems to employ old Hollywood logic to things thus a lot of things don't always make sense. How did Elisa get all that time alone in the lab with the creature? Why weren't there cameras in what appeared to be the most important lab in the facility? Why did we have that whole arc about Giles being a rejected advertising artist or a closeted gay man? The movie felt like it wanted to remind us a lot about all these other movies like Amelie and such by why it had to do that is a little lost to me.

TL;DR: The Shape of Water feels like an odd choice for the Oscar for Best Picture given the other movies nominated this year, but it's still a good movie with a simple story that is easy enough to understand. There's a lot of interesting visual moments in the movie and also some disturbing bits of tension that maybe we didn't need. But the movie is memorable enough to still merit 3.5 sequences of Elisa "pleasuring herself" that felt weird out of a possible 5.

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