Thursday, February 15, 2018

Movie: The Shape of Water (2017)

This past month I've been catching up with friends by going out to the movies. So many films are changing the way we interpret stories. Why pigeonhole a movie? It can be more than one genre! I will watch almost anything, but I'm not a fan of comedies...except funny horror. These three movies were all seen with different friends at different theaters and each time I went home afterwards thinking about the movies and how they made me feel, none of them can be grouped into one thing.


Take for example the Phantom Thread. I made sure not to watch any previews, all I knew was that it is about a 1950s fashion designer. In the movie, they hardly mention his designs and focus more on the relationship between him and one of his mannequin/ models. In my mind Phantom Thread is NOT a love story, as pictured, but a horror movie. It's about a misogynistic man and a manipulative woman and their twisted and warped relationship. It has too many silent parts where they just stare at each other. It can be a drama, a horror movie, art house, and to some people an f'd up love story. I left the theater with more questions than answers and it made me angry.





50 Shades Freed: The Final Chapter , it is what it is (Yes, I saw this movie at the theater, don't judge me). It's a movie about rich pretty people having sex all the time with a little suspense thrown in. It's a drama, soft core porn "light" and it still takes itself too seriously. It was cringe worthy, BUT pushes the boundaries of what can be shown on the big screen. The racy scenes open the door for horror movies to expand their gory-ness or nakedness and I hope that someday the horror directors and writers won't be stifled by the censors. I want them to share their complete vision with the audience and maybe someday horror movies will be taken more seriously by everyday people and not just me. It made me wish it was a horror movie. 


Now on to my main topic...Guillermo del Toro's The Shape of Water. I've been even more fascinated with him since I saw his exhibit in Toronto last year. Shape was playing at our local independent movie theater in their "Oscar Showcase" presentation and I decided to check it out on half-off day since I missed it in it's original run. Unfortunately some people sat behind us with the never ending candy wrapper. That being said, it didn't take away from my impression of the film. It's not a horror movie per se, there were a couple bloody scenes, but more than anything it's a sweet fantastical fairy tale for adults! 


***SPOILERS AHEAD***

This story takes place in the early 1960s in Baltimore. It's about a mute woman named Elisa Esposito that was found as a child near a river. She has scars where her vocal cords were cut. They look like gills that maybe they never developed? Maybe? All of this is foreshadowing. Otherwise she looks very average, but beautiful in her own way. She is styled like the girl Ofelia from Pan's Labyrinth, with her dark brown bobbed hair, headbands, blouses and skirts. 


Pan's Labyrinth and The Shape of Water

Elisa has her daily routine and works an overnight shift as a cleaning lady in a large government facility. She's friends with her gay neighbor, Giles, and they watch black and white musicals together copying the dance steps with each other for fun. He's a wonderful, but failed artist, that's discriminated against for this lifestyle. He has a bunch of beautiful fluffy pet cats too! 

One night when she's at work they bring in an "asset" ~ it's an amphibian man housed in a glass tank. As an outsider, she begins take her lunch break with this creature and brings him hard boiled eggs to eat. They listen to records together, she teaches him some sign language, and she cleans around his pool and tank sometimes dancing to the music. Music really is a universal language. 


The creature itself is a wonder to look at. Del Toro used his design experience from the character Abe Sapien ~ the merman in Hellboy ~ on this one. They are even played by the same actor! This merman stands up like the Creature From the Black Lagoon but his face is expressive. It's by no means a swamp monster, but reptilian, fish like, and human all combined. Even though Elisa and the fish man don't speak you can read their facial expressions. The two end up bonding because of her compassion for him. And the creature sees her as she is, not as a mute woman. The people that appreciate the creature see him as "beautiful", you can presume, just as the creature sees her. One of the head scientists, Dr. Hofstetler spies on their their interaction and realizes this creature is capable of emotions, he's a marvel to behold!


The head of security in the facility, Mr. Strickland, is abusing his power. He punishes the merman or what he calls an "abomination", almost killing him! The facility merely wants to study the creature's two types of breathing and use it against the Soviets. Strickland is a gross disgusting racist character and by the end of the movie his physicality is a reflection of his personality. He gets what he deserves.

Finding out about the abuse, Elisa wants to get the merman out and away from these horrible people. With the help of the scientist who can't stand to have this "intricate beautiful thing destroyed" and friends she smuggles him out to her apartment. She cares for him in her bathtub until he gets out while she's at work. The amphibian man eats her neighbor's cat ~ THEY SHOW HIM WITH THE BEHEADED CAT ~ the cat's name was Pandora. (Let's take a moment of silence for this kitty....You can read about the cat death trend here.  Note: I'm NOT happy about this.) On his way out he slashes her neighbor's arm. Then he runs to the downstairs movie theater where he stands transfixed by the movie on the screen. Elisa finds him and brings him back to her place. The neighbor forgives him for the scratches and KILLING HIS CAT. The merman's skin lights up and heals the cuts on his arm with a touch and reverses some of his aging too. It's hinted that this creature was worshiped in the olden days as a god. Eliza falls for the creature even more.

Eventually the security guard finds them, I won't give away the whole ending, but it's a happy one ~ a visually pretty love story. I could def watch this again to pick up more from the backgrounds and setting. I'm trying not to be pissed about the cat. I give it 4.5 out of 5 gold fish.

The acting is great and if you're a fan of the 1990s cheesy Toronto vampire cop show Forever Knight (like I am) two actors from the show pop up in the movie. Nigel Bennett that played Lacroix and John Kapelos that played Det. Schanke. Keep an eye out for them!

p.s. A novelized adaptation of the film written by Guillermo del Toro and Daniel Kraus is being released on Feb 27, 2018.


Here's the trailer...


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