Lady in the Water
Today’s feature is one of M. Night Shyamalan’s more forgotten flicks: 2006’s Lady In The Water.
Lady In The Water was written, directed, and produced by M. Night Shyamalan, who is best known for such movies as Signs, The Sixth Sense, The Village, The Happening, and The Last Airbender, among others.
The cinematographer on The Lady In The Water was Christopher Doyle, who also shot the 1998 Psycho remake and the 2002 action film Hero.
The editor for Lady In The Water was Barbara Tulliver, who previously cut the M. Night Shyamalan movie Signs, as well as the film Brooklyn’s Finest.
The makeup effects team for the film included Steven E. Anderson (Willow, Star Trek: Enterprise), Jason Barnett (The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Hellboy), Adrienne Bearden (The Lovely Bones), Mike Elizalde (Arena, Looper), Diane Heller (The Last Airbender, The Happening), Don Kozma (Sleepy Hollow, Signs), Mike Manzel (Slither, The Ring), Bernadette Mazur (The Stepford Wives, Hackers), James Ojala (John Dies At The End, Thor), and Wesley Wofford (The Last Airbender, Collateral).
The special effects for Lady In The Water were provided by a unit that included Peter Abrahamson (Son of the Mask, Van Helsing), Jim Beinke (Cabin Boy), Bryan Blair (Children of the Corn III, Hollow Man), Darin Bouyssou (Lake Placid, Small Soldiers, The Island of Doctor Moreau), Steve Cremin (Van Helsing, Unbreakable), Eric Fiedler (Evolver, House, Stargate), Frederick Fraleigh (Attack the Block, Evolution), Dave Grasso (How To Make A Monster, Congo), Moto Hata (Men in Black), Jurgen Heimann (Robot Jox, Prehysteria), Steve Katz (Serenity, The Mist), Taishiro Kiya (Space Truckers), Steve Wang (DeepStar Six, Arena, Hell Comes To Frogtown).
The producers for Lady In The Water were John Rusk (After Earth, Devil, The Happening), Jose L. Rodriguez (The Last Airbender, The Village, The Happening), and Sam Mercer (Van Helsing, Congo).
The musical score for Lady In The Water was composed by James Newton Howard, who also wrote the music for such films as Pretty Woman, Flatliners, Falling Down, Waterworld, Collateral, Nightcrawler, and The Happening.
The cast for Lady In The Water includes Paul Giamatti (Shoot Em Up, Sideways), Bryce Dallas Howard (The Village, Jurassic World), Jeffrey Wright (Boardwalk Empire), Bob Balaban (Gosford Park, Close Encounters of the Third Kind), Sarita Choudhury (Homeland), Cindy Cheung (Obvious Child), Freddy Rodriguez (Planet Terror, Six Feet Under), and, as always, M. Night Shyamalan himself.
Lady In The Water received a number of Golden Raspberry Award nominations as one of the worst films of the year, including winning for Worst Director and Worst Supporting Actor, both of which went to M. Night Shyamalan. Likewise, it received numerous nominations for the annual Stinkers Bad Movie Awards, winning Worst Supporting Actress for Cindy Cheung.
The reception to Lady In The Water was generally negative: it has accrued Rotten Tomatoes aggregate scores of 24% (critics) and 49% (audience), along with an IMDb rating of 5.7. Likewise, it only barely managed to make back its production budget of $70 million, grossing just over $72 million worldwide in its theatrical run.
The bedtime story at the center of Lady in the Water is apparently one that Shyamalan originally wrote to tell his children at night.
Lady In The Water marked M. Night Shyamalan’s dramatic departure from Disney, who had produced his last three movies, for Warner Brothers. Apparently, M. Night was infuriated by a series of actions by Disney executives that led him to believe that the company no longer valued creativity. Some believe that this decision partially contributed to the movie’s financial failure, as Warner Brothers didn’t promote the movie as heavily as Disney had his previous films.
The book The Man Who Heard Voices: Or, How M. Night Shyamalan Risked His Career On A Fairy Tale and Lost tells the behind-the-scenes story of what happened during the pre-production and production of Lady In The Water, and how those decisions impacted Shyamalan’s career following. While some claim that he may be on the upswing with 2015’s The Visit, many would agree that his career-defining fall from grace began with Lady in the Water.
The plot to Lady in the Water is meandering, convoluted, and surreal, which are all traits that can be pretty interesting in an art movie depending on the circumstances. However, in a Hollywood movie made for $70 million, it was doomed to failure from the start, even if it was made well. As it so happens, Shyamalan wasn’t/isn’t capable enough as a director or a writer to turn the abstract concept behind this movie into a coherent and entertaining on-screen product.
Personally, I kind of like the weird idea behind this movie. The concept of an obscure, forgotten fairy tale coming true is pretty interesting, and there were plenty of ways the plot could have run with that. The film just never lives up to what it could be: not enough happens to keep an audience entertained, the run time is too long, and the revelations either come too slow or too fast, both of which are bad for building this fictitious mythos necessary for the complicated plot.
Lady In The Water, if nothing else, is a curiosity of a movie. It isn’t entertaining or coherent, but it does build an ambiance and sense of tension pretty effectively that makes it at least vaguely interesting at times. That would be enough to loosely recommend it for the experience, but sitting through two hours of the pretentious nonsense that makes up this movie is just excruciating. Unless you have an academic interest in the bizarre career of M. Night Shyamalan, there’s no particularly compelling reason to sit through this whole movie.