Undulous and Evocative Swells: The Shape of Water

I remember the first time I heard Schubert’s Winterreise on NPR, white knuckle driving the snowy commute from home to school. Made more poignant by dancer Bill T Jone’s tale of watching his father’s brutal walk in the bitter cold to make ends meet for his family. (https://www.wabe.org/winter-songs-bill-t-jones-picks-schuberts-winterreise/) The music and memory made me calm.

Much like last night, where I walk-ran from work at 40 degrees to Burns Court Cinema to see The Shape of Water. I could have done stand up comedy last night and had my script prepared, yet the four day run of cold temperatures had frozen any mojo I had mustered. And just like Schubert’s beautiful music soothed, so did the magnificent story telling of Guillermo Del Torro and Vanessa Taylor on a chilly night in Sarasota.

Trust me, it wasn’t ‘just’ the story. This was a family affair, an incredible mixture of acting and music virtuoso. My two tiny complaints I’ll get out of the way right here, in that I can’t say I liked the cinematography. As other reviewers have pointed out, del Torro likes things a little too dark. And speaking of dark, figuratively this time, I really wish the torture scenes were shorter. I know, I know, I can hear screenplay script Gordy Hoffman saying this now, “you have to torture your hero.”

Now what I was amazed at:
the acting: I’ve championed Sally Hawkins forever and see my previous blogs, most recently “Maudie” for which she may have even shown more brilliance. Here she is perfect as the dreamy mute who fantasizes her way into the arms of a sea creature.
Richard Jenkins is also stunning as Sally’s man pal and I had to take a commercial break to research. He was nominated for an Oscar for The Visitor (gorgeous film) and garnered a Golden Globe Award for this film. He has my vote. I also added a library hold on one that I had seen the trailer for called The Hollars for which he also earned praise.
Michael Shannon, well, if you know me, you know I’ve been infatuated with him since Revolutionary Road, was privileged to get to see him in person at a George Eastman House Q&A, and now hope he doesn’t get pigeon holed as the Lurch like villain. He has much more to him than this role, and yet, I can’t say he wasn’t tremendous here.
Octavia Spencer, who I felt sorry for, playing another role of ‘the help’ in the 1950’s, was also so good, that my awe outweighed my shame for how stupid and prejudiced America used to be (though sadly there are obviously still pockets remaining).
The writing and editing spot on, again, except for the violence. The weaving in of water imagery, eggs=birth, implied sex, romance, an homage to cinema past, all beautifully done. Even the nuanced prejudice and male chauvinism added to the film’s verisimilitude making you forget any skepticism about the sea creature. It was almost as if to believe that humans could be so ignorant to each other’s needs then you might as well better believe the creature from the black lagoon could actually exist.

The end of the film literally reminded me of the denouement of a gorgeous piano concerto. Perfection. Watch out Top Ten List, some one’s gotta make way for this water!

Philip Seymour Hoffman God’s Pocket, what an encore!

I was devastated from announcement word one of PSH’s death, not only because he was from my neck of the woods (Rochester area), but I met him once as well, at the hometown debut of his film “Flawless” at the Little Theater in 1999. He was two people; just a guy who seemed sweet and normal and the acting genius that was his career.

Today I saw him in one of his last roles as Mickey Scarpato of John Slattery’s directed “God’s Pocket”. First let me call out any critic who divested the measly 33 % I last spied on Rotten Tomatoes. I have already shown my prejudice, being enamored with PSH’s work, yet even an unsophisticated movie goer could wholeheartedly applaud PSH’s and Richard Jenkins’ performances over the 50% mark.

Philip Seymor Hoffamn may best be remembered decades from now as the consummate sad sack, this time in God’s Pocket cuckolded to an uncaring shrew. And Richard Jenkins (whose poorly written role in the recent college related movie “Liberal Arts” stunk out the dorm room) returned to his master class form with a much more carnivorous role, of a desperate alcoholic journalist.

My favorite scene for poignancy depicted PSH’s Mickey dejectedly undressing to take a despairing Whiteny-esque bath after his wife literally (and figuratively) rejected him. His character makes me want to contact Tammy Wynette to rewrite her famous song into “Stand By Your Woman”, making Hillary Clinton’s forgiveness look like chump change.

The one minor critique of the film is its ending, which I will not spoil here. As my son aptly said, it was too much of a mood change.

Seek out God’s Pocket (though you must look deeply as most mainstream theaters aren’t grabbing this worthwhile indie flick) and let me know if you agree.