- Product Rating -

Art House Asshole : The Shape of Water

| December 9, 2017

Do you ever want to feel artistically superior to all of your friends? Maybe you are tired of your friends talking about how great the latest action film is and want to sound better. Maybe you want to impress your date with obscure film trivia. Maybe you think that knowing a lot about film history and art will somehow validate your meaningless existence and will replace that ever-growing pit in your heart that tells you that you don’t matter and no one cares about you. Well, don’t worry! Because I watch a bunch of art house films and can give you recommendations on what to watch and what to feel superior about! So without any delay, let’s get pretentious!

I’ve been very critical of this year. Primarily because I’ve found that almost everything in this year is good, but not great. There have been very few great films this year, but a lot of “yeah that was good” kind of films. And when I heard that one of the frontrunners for Best Picture was a film where Sally Hawkins falls in love with a fish, I thought “Yeah okay, I guess we’ll chop this year up to the black sheep of cinema”. Wasn’t super excited going in. Assumed it would be another one of those films that I would walk out and listen to everyone rave about while I just sit back and keep my criticisms quiet. *COUGH* lady bird *COUGH*. But I would only go this into detail as to how jaded and how much of an asshole in film taste I am if I was going to go the other way. So yeah. I loved The Shape of Water.

The Shape of Water is the newest film from Gothic Horror Mastermind Guillermo del Toro. And I should also preface, yes I know I’ve done that enough, but I have never been a huge del Toro fan. I’ve liked his stuff, and I do very much enjoy Pan’s Labyrinth, but all of his stuff is like I said before “yeah that was good”. The Shape of Water takes place or is heavily inspired by, the aesthetic of the 1960s. Following a mute janitor at a government facility, played by Sally Hawkins, who finds a creature from the black lagoon type monster in the facility. The creature and Sally Hawkins then fall in love. I’m aware that on paper this film doesn’t work. But take my word for it, that it is the best romance film of the year in a year that has had some pretty great romance films.

The first thing I would like to compliment in the film is the Production Design. If this year has been good for one thing, it’s Production Design. The film completely commits to its 1960s aesthetic as well as the monster film vibe. All of the costumes are perfect, all of the sets are perfect. Which makes sense. When you have a main character who does not have the ability to speak, you have to make the environment speak for them. And that is exactly what happens in this film.

The writing for the film is fantastic. For a film about a monster love story, the film manages to be shockingly human and relatable. The story also never slows down. And I don’t say that in a Mad Max: Fury Road kind of way. But what I mean is that the story never has any lulls. In most films, you have certain scenes that feel necessary, but not necessarily entertaining. The plot point scenes that aren’t the best executed. The pacing and the story of The Shape of Water is so well done, that I never felt bored. Everything felt necessary as well as entertaining. And it made for one of the best theater experiences of the year.

It’s time I get to the acting because that is where this film truly shines. It is no secret or surprise that Michael Shannon is a great actor. But I was thinking, and I am pretty sure that this is his best performance. I’ve never been as terrified of Michael Shannon as I have in this film. When he is angrily yelling and interrogating people, it’s amazing, and I was terrified. And if you’ve seen the film, you know that he does that thing with his fingers and oh my gosh. What a performance. But that was almost a given, and it’s rare that Michael Shannon doesn’t give an amazing performance. The surprise, for me at least, was Richard Jenkins who gives one of my favorite supporting performances of the year. His character is so well written, so likable, so lovable, that he knocks it out of the park. Does he make this character his own? I don’t think so, but that isn’t a bad thing. Jenkins took the character that del Toro gave him and made it one of the best characters of the year. And I think Jenkins does a perfect job being almost the opposite of Shannon.

But the real star of the film is Sally Hawkins. For an actress to give such life and emotion to a role that doesn’t include any dialogue, she knocks it out of the park. Hawkins, at this point of the year, is my favorite female performance and that is saying something because this year has been pretty heavy with female leads. The emotion she portrays with just her eyes is breathtaking and beautiful. When she signs, she does so with such emotion. And I’m aware that I’m swooning and sounding stupid. But I really can’t put into words how much I loved Hawkins performance.

And I wouldn’t feel right if I didn’t mention Doug Jones. Every critic has talked about how great Doug Jones is in this film. And there isn’t anything that I could add to that. But his performance combined with the incredible effects and makeup team makes for one of the most interesting characters of the year. Another character who does not speak but conveys such high emotion. I won’t talk much longer, but when talking about the performances of this film, it is important not to forget about his performance.

In general, I think everyone should see this film. I think it will connect with you, even if you are skeptical. I’m a skeptical jaded asshole, and I loved this film. And I hope you see it too. Because I think you will like it.

About the Author:

Henry Jarvis is the youngest member of the Reel Nerds. His favorite films include Space Jam and Dude, Where’s My Car? and Lawrence of Arabia. He enjoys those pretentious art house films that Ryan hates. He sees a lot of movies! Honestly more than he should. He replaces his lack of social skills and meaningful friendships with his love of cinema! He’s also crying while he writes this biography for himself. His favorite directors are Andrei Tarkovsky, David Fincher, and David Lean.
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