I wonder if Hollywood has now realized that sex really no longer holds any of the taboo or mystery that they’ve been exploiting for decades.
I mean this year alone, it seems like many filmmakers are trying to recapture that boundary-pushing by going a few steps further… like infusing a girl’s sexual desire with her cannibalism (Raw), or romanticizing a 17-year-old boy pursuing a sexual relationship with a 24-year-old man (Call Me by Your Name), and now I guess we have this movie where a woman has sex with a fish-man.
No really, if the trailers didn’t make it obvious to you, the crux of this story is about a woman and her romance with some sort of amphibian man.
Aside from that, The Shape of Water is a good movie with a handful of flaws that hold it back from greatness.
The best thing of this movie is the cinematography. Guillermo del Toro certainly continues to have a fantastic eye for making scenes more interesting and mesmerizing. There are a lot of memorable scenes due to the lighting, framing, or scene transitions.
Sally Hawkins does pretty well in her role as the mute lady that’s a little too into sushi. The film really doesn’t give her enough to be a memorable character, but that’s by no means Hawkins’ fault. She did well with what she was given.
Octavia Spencer, as usual, is the best character in the film, and her constant chattiness really contrasts Hawkins’ silence. They really never do enough with that relationship either, but most of the best scenes had Spencer involved.
Richard Jenkins, Hawkins’ neighbor, is also good, and he certainly has the most interesting and sad character arc.
Michael Shannon performs really well despite how garbage his character was written. It was like del Toro had a check list of “things bad people do”, and Shannon spends the entire time checking those items off the list. The film eventually gives him more development than just being the “designated puppy killer”, but it’s very funny just how brazenly obvious he makes del Toro’s agenda in this movie.
If anything, this really is a testament to how great Michael Shannon is as an actor. Give him any crap role, and he’ll at least produce something good out of it.
The script is far from subtle, and I was kind of shocked at just how many things I predicted would happen in this story. I guess it’s not that hard because the trailer gives a lot away already, but there were things in the movie that weren’t spoiled by the trailer, and I was still able to guess their significance/design well before the movie reveals it.
I’m not sure how anyone was able to take the fishman-woman romance seriously. I mean I get why she’s attached to him, and I get why she wanted to rescue him from his situation (though I don’t think the movie developed those aspects enough), but as soon as we get to the part where they get down and dirty, all I felt was weirdness.
It wasn’t erotic. It wasn’t romantic. Shoot, it wasn’t even necessarily disgusting. The best word that I could use to describe it was weird.
In fact, I think the movie’s relationship with sex is a weird one. The film has a lot more scenes involving boobs, awkward sex, and masturbation than I ever anticipated it would, and most of the scenes really didn’t have a purpose to the overall plot.
On top of this, the fishman is not really characterized enough to make you understand why Hawkins’ gets so hot and bothered by him. Shoot, I would argue that he’s often not humanized enough to break through that weird factor I keep bringing up.
And that’s really where the film falls away from true remembrance: it fails at delivering what it wants to deliver. It would be like Beauty and the Beast, but the Beast isn’t a human being punished for his vanity but an actual sasquatch which fulfills Belle’s lady desires and quenches her constant loneliness.
The film also seems to have an obsession with the glory days of cinema, and I simply can’t justify why they put so much emphasis on it. It just feels like a thing del Toro did because he wanted to. Most of the scenes that involved the old-movie emphasis were distracting or forgettable.
So yeah, the camera work is absolutely amazing, and all the performances are all good. But there’s nothing all that great about the writing or the story. The story isn’t nearly as intelligent as it wants to be, and it takes a trip down to stupid land way more than once. I can’t say that I was ever bored, but the more I think about the film, the more I realize that I will likely forget about it in less than a month.