A beautifully unorthodox love story
Oscar season is (finally) in full swing. I have a lot of movies I have yet to see, but if the early awards season is any indication.....The Shape of Water will be making some serious waves (tehe) this year. After seeing it, I can understand why. The brainchild of the great Guillermo del Toro, (and almost certainly his best work to date) The Shape of Water shows us an imaginative love story between a mute and an amphibious creature. That's really all you need to know about the story going in. The greatness of this film is with the relationship of its lead characters, its spectacular visual effects, and its wonderful production design. So, without further ado, let's dive in and discuss The Shape of Water! (Don't worry I'll be here all night with these water puns)
Sally freaking Hawkins. I must admit I am not very familiar with this talented actress. Heck since starting this blog I've only seen her in Godzilla and Blue Jasmine, and she didn't really stand out in either of them. So I feel like I can't say this is "the performance of her career," but I will say I can see why many other people (people whom are more familiar with her work) are saying that. She gives Ross Lynch in My Friend Dahmer a serious run for his money in terms of the best performance I've seen in 2017. Hawkins plays a mute, and the fact that she couldn't speak didn't slow her down at all. She conveys so much emotion throughout this film with just her face it's incredible. Like, Nicole Kidman in Lion kind of incredible. There's one scene in particular where she's yelling at Richard Jenkins's character, and even though she can't talk.....you really feel like she's yelling at him! It's one of many fantastic scenes throughout the film. Doug Jones plays the mysterious amphibious creature, and he does an outstanding job too. The freaking visual effects, man. Dunkirk has some company for the best effects of the year. You get almost as much emotion out of the creature as you do Sally Hawkins, and the scenes where it's just the two of them are simply terrific. Del Toro and company did an incredible job here showing off what you can do in 2017. Man have we come a loooooooong way. Additionally, the supporting cast is not only strong, but they have some great character arcs as well. Richard Jenkins leads the way. He plays Hawkins's neighbor, and has a wonderful story arc himself as a man struggling to cope with his homosexuality in the 1960s. He may make some waves this awards season with this performance, as it's certainly one of the best of his distinguished career. Octavia Spencer, Michael Shannon, and Michael Stuhlbarg are great as well. Honestly this film may make some waves for the ensemble award as the SAG Awards, because all of these actors are great and each have (mostly) good character arcs on top of it.
Finally, this film also features terrific production design, as well as one of my favorite scores of the year. Alexandre Desplat (who's been a busy man recently with a whooping six film scores) adds another fantastic score to his portfolio, which certainly adds to the ambiance of the film. It also reminded me a lot of the opening of Up, and anything that makes me think of one of the best sequences ever made is certainly a good thing. While there have been some other great scores this year, The Shape of Water will almost certainly be a tidal wave this awards season in this department. As for the production design.....the freaking colors, man. The film looks very grimy and worn down, and every choice of color adds to this. I think there's a good essay somewhere about del Toro's color palette, and why certain colors were used in this film. (Looks at every college student studying film)
THAT SAID. There are some imperfections here. Most notably in Michael Shannon's character. I get that this is a fairy tale, but his character has some cartoon villain-esque traits that make him not feel like a real person. Shannon plays the villain spectacularly well, and his character is written with a LOT of ties to modern America, which I appreciated, but still. It just felt a little too over-the-top for me. (Though I expect many will disagree.) Michael Stuhlbarg was also a little underdeveloped for how prominently he's featured in this film, and his character's arc ended in a really disappointing fashion. He became a plot device after starting out as a major supporting character, and that irked me a tad. Also. (Warning: I'm going to throw a spoiler in here, but it occurs within the first ten minutes of the film and doesn't impact it at all later on so it's minor) I appreciated the ties to modern America, (of which, there are many) but......did we really have to get full frontal nudity (in rather excruciating detail, I might add) of Sally Hawkins within the first five minutes of the film? That sequence felt awkward and out-of-place. It doesn't last too long, but to me it felt like nudity for the sake of objectification. Ugh! Fortunately, this sequence doesn't last very long and I was able to move past it.
All of those complaints, though, are relatively minor in scale. This film is one of the great movies of the year, and deserves all of the awards hype it is receiving. Guillermo del Toro has crafted his best work to date in the style that only Toro himself knows best, and is well worth your time. Check it out!
The Critique: Buoyed by fantastic visual effects and a spectacular performance from Sally Hawkins, The Shape of Water is a charming and unorthodox love story that will keep you engrossed from start to finish.
The Recommendation: If you like a good love story.....what are you waiting for? Check this one out!
The Verdict: 9/10 Amazing
UPDATE: So I originally gave this film an 8/10, but then I saw The Greatest Showman and saw how poorly it handled some of the ties to 2017 and realized that The Shape of Water did this part so much better that it's borderline hilarious. So I had to up my score a bit for my own sanity.