Sunday, January 28, 2018

Stubs - The Shape of Water

The Shape of Water (2017) Starring: Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Doug Jones, Michael Stuhlbarg, Octavia Spencer Directed by Guillermo del Toro. Screenplay by Guillermo del Toro, Vanessa Taylor. Produced by J. Miles Dale, Guillermo del Toro. Run Time: 123 minutes. USA Color. Fantasy, Science Fiction, Drama, Romance

A Creature From the Black Lagoon comes to the big city, in this case, Baltimore, story is one of this year's leading films to win a Best Picture Oscar. The film is also nominated in 12 other categories, in addition to Best Picture, including Best Director (Guillermo del Toro), Best Actress (Sally Hawkins), Best Supporting Actor (Richard Jenkins), Best Supporting Actress (Octavia Spencer) and Best Original Screenplay (Guillermo del Toro, Vanessa Taylor). And after watching the film, I would have to say that it deserves these nominations, if not the awards.

Sally Hawkins, a gifted actress, plays Elisa Esposito, a mute who works as a janitor for a secret government agency. She lives above a struggling movie theater, next door to a lonely artist, Giles (Richard Jenkins), a recovering alcoholic with a penchant for finding old Fox films on local TV. She is accompanied at work by Zelda Delilah Fuller (Octavia Spencer) whose main purpose seems to be interpreting Elisa's sign language for the higher-ups. Those include Dr. Robert Hoffstetler (Michael Stuhlbarg) and Colonel Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon), who are both working on a secret project, which turns out to be Amphibian Man (Doug Jones).

The film takes place during the Cold War, with the Space Race just starting to take shape, so there is some Russian espionage at work as well. Though neither side is really sure of what to make of the Amphibian Man, that doesn't prevent them from fighting over him. While I can't say that all the hairdos and suit styles are spot on, the feeling of the era is definitely captured.

Curiosity leads Elisa to find the Amphibian Man and an unlikely relationship begins. If you haven't seen the film, then saying more would be giving away the plot. And this is definitely a film you should see.

Del Toro directing a scene from The Shape of Water.

The name Del Toro is not always a sign of greatness, see Pacific Rim (2013), which like this film is a mixture of influences and genres. However, while Pacific Rim was sort of stupid, this time the combinations seem to work much better. Originally conceived as a remake of the aforementioned Creature From the Black Lagoon, an IP that Universal is not yet willing to part with, this time the creature is a much more sympathetic character and the film's heartwarming touches sort of catch you a little by surprise. There are the occasional plot holes, but not enough to take away from the overall film.

Sally Hawkins and Octavia Spencer in The Shape of Water.

Sally Hawkins, who is unafraid of nudity here, plays a very sweet character who finds an inner strength when she needs it. Hawkins overcomes the shortcomings that Elisa is unable to talk, but she still manages to get the character across to the audience.

Richard Jenkins plays Giles, Elisa's neighbor and confidant in The Shape of Water.

Richard Jenkins and Octavia Spencer, who play Elisa's personal and work best friends, are both good in their roles and deserve the accolades they've received. The film seems to give every main character a life away from the main story. While Giles is painted with more depth, Zelda is also drawn in three-dimensions.

I would say equally deserving is Michael Shannon's performance as Col. Richard Strickland. Unlike many movie villains, you see him as a somewhat believable character, a family man driven by an overzealous misplaced fervor for both the Bible and patriotism. A definitely flawed man, you never root for him but you have to appreciate the actor who brings him to life.

Michael Shannon gives his character a lot of depth, even though you can never root for him.

I am not going to predict the whims of the Motion Picture Academy, but I will highly recommend this film. There is so much to like here and every aspect seems to be done at a very high level from the acting to the story to the direction. This is one that you want to be sure to see so that you'll understand what all the fuss is about.

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