Movie: THE SHAPE OF WATER
Rating: R, sexual content, graphic nudity, violence and language
Release Date: December 1, 2017
Jeanne: The visually stunning and utterly memorable new film by Guillermo del Toro, "The Shape of Water", is like nothing you've seen before. Known for his masterful storytelling skills, del Toro has completely outdone himself with this spectacularly beautiful and meaningful love story.
To many, Elisa (Sally Hawkins) may be looked upon with pity. She's a mute, working long days as a cleaning woman in a dreary, dark secret government lab in 1962 at the height of the Cold War. But she has her friend and co-worker, Zelda (Octavia Spencer) and next-door
neighbor --- her closest companion --- Giles (Richard Jenkins), to love and protect her. Elisa is not an unhappy person.
And yet, when she and Zelda discover the contents of a water tank in the most guarded lab in the facility, something comes alive in Elisa. The strange amphibian, closely resembling a human form (Doug Jones), touches her heart. She risks her job to bring him food --- then she puts her life --- and the lives of her friends --- in danger in an effort to free this lonely creature from the clutches of the U.S. government.
Agent Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon) is ruthlessly ambitious, eager to move out of what he perceives to be a dead-end job. He is anxious for Dr. Robert Hoffstetler (Michael Stuhlbarg) to complete his tests on this newly-discovered prize so the government can kill him, and Strickland can move on to bigger and better opportunities.
Del Toro was very specific with his casting. He wrote the part of Elisa especially for Hawkins. He was convinced that she alone could elicit just the right facial expressions to bring Elisa to life on the big
screen --- and I couldn't agree more.
David and I have always admired Hawkins, but we were completely astounded by her performance as Maud Lewis in "Maudie", released earlier this year. It was a film we praised to everyone who would listen --- a sure Oscar nomination forthcoming for her. But now, I believe Ms. Hawkins will receive that much-deserved nod for Elisa, instead. Her portrayal is truly magical --- a marvelous tutelage in the art of acting without dialogue. She is mesmerizing --- superb.
In fact, the entire cast is phenomenal. We have been long-time fans of Jenkins, also, and this role is perfect for him. Giles' love for Elisa is so very real despite the fact that he prefers the company of men in a time when such predilections were taboo. Jenkins allows Giles to buy into Elisa's love for her "monster", doing whatever he can to protect them both.
Jones imbues his amphibian with more than enough of the good qualities one would want in a mate. With the two main characters never saying a word, nothing is missed in the expression of their feelings for each other. I fear some moviegoers may find this distasteful --- and if they do, I feel sorry for them.
Del Toro and his co-writer, Vanessa Taylor, have penned a gorgeous screenplay, despite its dark and gloomy atmosphere. The cinematography by Dan Laustsen and set designs by Paul Denham Austerberry forego the somewhat "traditional" feel of a monster movie for "The Shape of Water" by creating more of a film noir effect.
It's such a strange, and ultimately superior, movie-going experience --- one not easily forgotten. And given the equally outstanding portrayals by Shannon, Spencer and Stuhlbarg, along with the alluring original soundtrack by Alexandre Desplat, punctuated by a long list of fabulous oldies, "The Shape of Water" should be at the top of everyone's "See It Now!" list!
Opinion: Strong See It Now!
David: A cornucopia of cliches comes to mind to describe Guillermo del Toro's latest movie. "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder"... "Love conquers all"..."good triumphs over evil". But none of these can possibly do justice to this amazing visionary film, "The Shape of Water".
Del Toro --- who co-wrote, produced and directed --- always had British actress Sally Hawkins in mind for the lead role of Elisa. She is a cleaning woman in a government facility who is content with her life, even though she could never tell you about it because she's a mute. But Elisa speaks volumes through American Sign Language (ASL), as well as via her expressive eyes, facial expressions and gestures.
When she falls for an amphibious being (Doug Jones) that a villainous government agent (Michael Shannon) plucked from the Amazon, her use of ASL comes in very handy. Her best friend at work, Zelda (Octavia Spencer) is sympathetic and totally supportive of her unique situation, as is her best friend overall, a gay artist named Giles (Richard Jenkins).
"The Shape of Water" is a fantasy love story, and some moviegoers won't get it. Partially modeled after the classic monster movie "Creature from the Black Lagoon" (1954), this fertile product of del Toro's vivid imagination is a fabulous beacon of hope contrasted to the turbulent era of 1962 in world history.
Hawkins may be competing against herself for Best Actress honors ("Maudie" earlier this year). Here she is eloquent and moving in her silence. Yet perhaps the best scene in the entire movie is a dream sequence where Elisa not only dances with the creature, but she is a dazzling songstress --- all shot in black and white.
Shannon is perfectly cast as the villainous Strickland who hopes to enhance his career through his capture of the creature, although he has his own vulnerabilities. Jones manages to impart strong feelings through his fish costume, and Jenkins is a wonder --- one of our favorite actors dating back to HBO's "Six Feet Under".
Michael Stuhlbarg is everywhere these days (a wonderful turn in the current hit "Call Me By Your Name"), and deservedly so. His screen presence is palpable in every single role. And how can anyone not love Octavia Spencer?? She always manages to embody the down-to-earth friend we all can admire.
"The Shape of Water" is a totally immersive --- no pun intended ---cinematic experience. It is one of the year's best films in what is shaping up as a superlative collection of choices for moviegoers.
Opinion: Strong See It Now!