Lady in the Water
Lady in the Water is a 2006 American fantasy drama psychological thriller film written, produced, and directed by M. Night Shyamalan and starring Paul Giamatti and Bryce Dallas Howard. The film's plot concerns the superintendent of a Philadelphia apartment complex who discovers a young woman in the swimming pool. Gradually, he and his neighbors learn that she is a water nymph (or Narf) whose life is in danger from a vicious, wolf-like, mystical creature called a Scrunt that tries to keep her from returning to her watery "blue world." This is Shyamalan's first film in which he appeared in a significant role rather than a short cameo.
|Lady in the Water|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||M. Night Shyamalan|
|Produced by||Sam Mercer|
M. Night Shyamalan
|Written by||M. Night Shyamalan|
|Music by||James Newton Howard|
|Edited by||Barbara Tulliver|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros. Pictures|
|Box office||$72.8 million|
The film received a mostly negative response from critics, with criticism revolving around the self-indulgence with which Shyamalan cast himself in the film, the lack of consistency, and the film’s characterization. The film was also a financial disappointment grossing $72 million against a $70 million production budget.
One evening, Cleveland Heep, who became the superintendent of a Philadelphia apartment complex after his family was murdered, discovers Story, a Narf (a naiad-like being) from the Blue World, in his building's pool, immediately rescuing her from an attack by a Scrunt, a grass-covered, wolf-like creature that hides by flattening its body against the turf.
Story explains she is a Narf, here to find the Writer, the "vessel" who will be magically awakened when he meets her, and then write a book that will save humanity in the future. When Heep mentions the word Narf to tenant Young-Soon, she recognizes it from stories her mother, Mrs. Choi, then expands on for him.
After questioning residents Farber, Bell, Dury, and five nameless smokers, Heep discovers the Writer is tenant Vick Ran, who is struggling to complete The Cookbook. Heep brings Vick to Story, which eliminates his fear and sharpens his inner voice. She later reveals that The Cookbook will contain views and ideas so significant they will inspire a future President, a great Midwestern orator, to greatly change the world for the better. Vick later deduces, and she confirms, that he will be assassinated because of the controversial nature of his ideas, giving them extra power.
As Mrs. Choi remembers more details of the Narf legend, Heep better understands the situation. The Tartutic, an invincible simian-like quartet that serve as the Blue World's peacekeepers, have forbidden any attacks on Story while she returns home. Nonetheless, the Scrunt does just that because they know that Story is destined to be a great Narf leader. To recover from her wounds and return safely, she will now need the help of a Guardian, a Symbolist, a Guild, and a Healer. Story believes Heep to be her Guardian; Heep asks Farber, an abrasive film critic, to help him figure out the others' identities. Working off movie tropes, Farber misadvises Heep, leading him to a flawed conclusion that Dury is the Symbolist, the smokers are the Guild, and Bell is the Healer.
Heep confronts the Scrunt, but nearly dies in the process, convincing him he is not the Guardian. The next night, Farber's bad advice leads to their plan's immediate failure. In the confusion, Farber is killed and Story is mortally wounded by the Scrunt. Dury suddenly realizes his son Joey is the real Symbolist. Interpreting the information on cereal boxes, Joey deduces the true Guild is composed of seven sisters, that two new men must be present, and that the Healer is male, soon revealed to be Heep. Heep goes about healing Story by "bringing forth [his] energy" (his repressed grief), and Story's wounds heal when he confesses that he does not want to lose her too. Story's departure starts again, but the Scrunt attacks; it is stopped by the gaze of Reggie, a lopsidedly muscled tenant who is the true Guardian. Reggie's intense stare and stalking approach compel the Scrunt to slowly retreat, but he is distracted by the cry of the Great Eatlon (a giant eagle who will ferry Story home). When Reggie breaks eye contact, the Scrunt leaps, but the Tartutic arrive and drag it away. Heep thanks Story for saving his life as she hugs him goodbye. The Great Eatlon lands, enfolds Story in one of its wings, and takes flight, ferrying Story into the night.
- Paul Giamatti as Cleveland Heep
- Bryce Dallas Howard as Story
- Bob Balaban as Harry Farber
- Jeffrey Wright as Mr. Dury
- Sarita Choudhury as Anna Ran
- Cindy Cheung as Young-Soon Choi
- Freddy Rodriguez as Reggie
- Bill Irwin as Mr. Leeds
- Jared Harris as Goatee Smoker
- Mary Beth Hurt as Mrs. Bell
- Joseph D. Reitman as Long Haired Smoker
- Tovah Feldshuh as Mrs. Bubchik
- M. Night Shyamalan as Vick Ran
- Noah Gray-Cabey as Joey Dury
- June Kyoko Lu as Mrs. Choi
David Ogden Stiers is the uncredited narrator heard at the opening of the film, explaining how: the magical Narf of the undersea Blue World provided guidance to humanity millennia ago; humanity has forgotten that relationship, plunging itself into the devastating wars that are referenced through the remainder of the film; seeing the looming end of humanity, the Narf have now sent some of their (human-appearing) young to help humanity, though most are killed by the Scrunts and humanity has forgotten how to listen to the others.
The film was originally planned to be produced by Touchstone Pictures—just as Shyamalan's previous four films were released by Walt Disney Studios—but ultimately no deal was reached. Disney executive Nina Jacobson had spoken with Shyamalan about the film's storyline, the idea for which studio chairman Dick Cook didn't understand. Shyamalan was reportedly angry about the response, claiming that Disney "no longer valued individualism". Despite the fact that Disney was willing to completely fund the film regardless, Shyamalan rejected their offer and eventually presented the project to Warner Bros., who agreed to finance the film. The events that led to the making of the film were featured in a book, The Man Who Heard Voices, by Michael Bamberger.
Shyamalan established a production facility at the Jacobson Logistics warehouse site in nearby Levittown, Pennsylvania, where sets for the apartment complex and a half-city block of row houses were built. Occasional footage was shot inside the overflow area of the warehouse. Most of the filming was completed after work hours.
Having already formulated ideas for the score the previous year, James Newton Howard wrote it during the early part of 2006, and the orchestral score was recorded over a period of four days in May by the 91-piece Hollywood Studio Symphony.
|Lady in the Water|
|Film score by|
|Released||July 18, 2006|
|James Newton Howard chronology|
The soundtrack was composed by James Newton Howard. The last four tracks are non-soundtrack Bob Dylan covers from singer/songwriter Amanda Ghost, indie rock band A Whisper in the Noise, and rock 'n' roll revivalists Silvertide. Howard won the IFMCA Award for Best Film Score for Lady in the Water in 2006, as well as the awards for Best Original Score for a Fantasy/Science Fiction/Horror Film, and Best Single Cue of 2006 for "The Great Eatlon"
- "The Party"
- "Ripples in the Pool"
- "The Blue World"
- "Giving the Kii"
- "Walkie Talkie"
- "Cereal Boxes"
- "Officer Jimbo"
- "The Healing"
- "The Great Eatlon"
- "End Titles"
- "The Times They Are a-Changin'" – A Whisper in the Noise
- "Every Grain of Sand" – Amanda Ghost
- "It Ain't Me Babe" – Silvertide
- "Maggie's Farm" – Silvertide
In its opening weekend (July 21–23, 2006), the film grossed a total of $18.2 million, placing third in the U.S. box office results for that weekend. It was Shyamalan's lowest opening for any of his five major films. As a result of the negative reviews and poor word-of-mouth, its second week fell sharply to $7.1 million, pushing its total to only $32.2 million. Its third weekend was no better, falling another 62.1% to $2.7 million. As of 2011, its total was $42.285 million. In addition, the film made only $30.5 million in other territories, bringing its tally to approximately $72.785 million internationally.
Lady in the Water received negative reviews around the time of its release. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 25% based on 213 reviews, with an average rating of 4.26/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "A far-fetched story with little suspense and unconvincing scenarios, Lady In The Water feels contrived, pretentious, and rather silly." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 36 out of 100 based on reviews from 36 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews". Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film a grade B- on scale of A to F.
Brian Lowry of Variety magazine wrote a scathing advance review that appeared on July 16, 2006. Common complaints about the film were that little effort was put into getting the viewer to believe in the world, that few moments of the film could be taken seriously, and that Shyamalan was using the film as a form of self-indulgence; instead of having a minor cameo, as in most of his films, Shyamalan cast himself as a visionary whose writing changes the world, and another character included a film critic—portrayed by actor Bob Balaban as arrogant, self-assured, and passive—who comes to a violent end. Many reviewers attacked this perceived self-indulgence: Manohla Dargis of The New York Times wrote of the story, "Apparently those who live in the water now roam the earth trying to make us listen, though initially it's rather foggy as to what precisely we are supposed to hear—the crash of the waves, the songs of the sirens, the voice of God—until we realize that of course we're meant to cup our ear to an even higher power: Mr. Shyamalan." Of Shyamalan's role in the film, Mark Kermode said, "It's like someone pouring petrol over their heads and setting fire to themselves."
Frank Lovece of Film Journal International said, "Fans of actor Paul Giamatti or of filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan may get something out of Lady in the Water, a fractured fairy tale about a water nymph who comes to a Philadelphia apartment house to deliver an important message. Anyone else is likely to be perplexed by the muddled mythmaking or actively astonished at the self-indulgent ego of a writer-director-producer who casts himself in the role of a visionary writer whose martyrdom will change the world."
Michael Medved gave Lady in the Water one-and-a-half stars (out of four) calling it, "…a full-out, flamboyant cinematic disaster, a work of nearly unparalleled arrogance and vapidity", adding, "…Lady in the Water is all wet…"
Also panned was the fact that the film was based on a bedtime story Shyamalan told to his children; Pete Vonder Haar of Film Threat commented: "If Shyamalan is going to use his kids as a focus group for future projects, maybe he should start making movies for Nickelodeon already and stop wasting our time." Coincidentally, Shyamalan went on to direct a film adaptation of Nickelodeon's television series Avatar: The Last Airbender, which also received overwhelmingly negative reviews.
CNN's Tom Charity, among others, has called Lady in the Water the worst film of 2006. It was listed by Variety as one of the ten "biggest (financial) losers" of 2006. Wesley Morris of The Boston Globe wrote that though the film is "built on too much ponderous self-regard…[t]here is a good chunk of Lady in the Water that is simply too well made and affectingly acted to dismiss as a mere exercise in arrogance."
Awards and nominationsEdit
|Teen Choice Awards||Choice Summer Movie - Drama/Action-Adventure||Nominated|
|Young Artist Awards||Best Young Actor - Ten or Under||Noah Gray-Cabey||Nominated|
|Golden Raspberry Awards||Worst Picture||Sam Mercer||Nominated|
|M. Night Shyamalan||Nominated|
|Worst Supporting Actor||Won|
|Stinkers Bad Movie Awards||Worst Picture||Sam Mercer||Nominated|
|M. Night Shyamalan||Nominated|
|Worst Supporting Actress||Cindy Cheung||Won|
|Most Annoying Fake Accent - Female||Won|
|Worst Ensemble||The entire cast||Nominated|
|Least Scary Horror Movie||Sam Mercer||Won|
|M. Night Shyamalan||Won|
- Children's book
Shyamalan, who credits the development of the movie to a bedtime story he told his children about what happens in their pool at night, wrote the 72-page children's book Lady in the Water: A Bedtime Story (Little, Brown, New York, ISBN 0-316-01734-5) to coincide with the movie. The book was illustrated by Crash McCreery and released the same day as the film, July 21, 2006.
The book describes the narf, scrunt, Tartutic, and Eatlon in detail, their roles identical to those in the film. It includes details not present in the film and omits others: additional details include the description of the sensations experienced by a vessel upon its awakening and the suggestion that a narf's presence activates the lawn sprinklers. The roles of Madame Narf, Healer, Symbolist, Guild and Guardian are only suggested.
- The Man Who Heard Voices
- "Lady in the Water (PG)". British Board of Film Classification. 2006-07-26. Retrieved 2011-10-09.
- "Lady in the Water (2006)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved December 27, 2012.
- "Lady in the Water Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 2018-07-14.
- "Lady in the Water (2006)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved 2020-04-20.
- Eller, Claudia (June 23, 2006). "Horror Director Impales Disney in Tell-All Book". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 30, 2014.
- Weiner, Allison Hope (June 2, 2008). "Shyamalan's Hollywood Horror Story, With Twist". The New York Times. Retrieved December 30, 2014.
- Lowry, Brian (16 July 2006). "Lady in the Water". Variety. Retrieved 2020-04-20.
- Peter Travers, Lady in the Water, Rolling Stone, July 20, 2006, Accessed May 10, 2008.
- Sink or Swim, Entertainment Weekly, July 7, 2006, accessed May 10, 2008.
- Goldwasser, Dan (2006-05-14). "James Newton Howard scores Lady in the Water". ScoringSessions.com. Retrieved 2009-01-01.
- Lady in the Water at AllMusic
- IFMCA Award (2006). "Awards and Winners 2006"
- "LADY IN THE WATER (2006) B-". CinemaScore. Archived from the original on 2018-12-20.
- The New York Times (July 2006) "Finding Magic Somewhere Under the Pool in Lady in the Water" by Manohla Dargis
- BBC – Five Live MARK KERMODE
- Film Journal International Lady in the Water Archived 2008-05-03 at the Wayback Machine, by Frank Lovece
- Michael Medved's Eye On Entertainment – Lady In The Water Review Archived 2006-10-22 at the Wayback Machine
- Film Threat Review
- CNN.com – The best (and worst) films of the year, December 28, 2006
- LaPorte, Nicole (24 December 2006). "2006: Hollywood diagnosis". Variety.
- World (Aug. 19, 2006): "A thrillertale: Middle Earth and Philadelphia collide in Lady in the Water," by Harrison Scott Key
- The Boston Globe (July 21, 2006): "Fractured Fairy Tale," by Wesley Morris
- "Cahiers du Cinema: Top Ten Lists 1951-2009". alumnus.caltech.edu. Archived from the original on 2012-03-27. Retrieved 2012-04-11.
- JoBlo.com (June 26, 2006) – "Early Lady Review!" by Mike Sampson
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