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!

What I’d give for the simple life: Maudie

First of all, my hats off to Trace Hardman who has to be one of the sweetest people in Sarasota. Not only was he kind enough to treat me out for a birthday lunch last year, but he treated me this week to Maudie directed by Aisling Walsh.

PLOT (without spoilers of course):

And Trace, Maudie (as in a major theme of this film based on the true story of Maud Lewis) and I have something in common; a wish for simpler times. For instance, we both agree that going out on a weeknight to a low key place is better than some raucous Saturday evening.

Through a halcyon lens, Maudie had a great low key life with her husband Everett Lewis. From a realistic perspective, her life could also be viewed as cloistered and Everett abusive. Yet, Maudie’s artistic ability evened out the power struggle enabling them to form a close partnership.

Trying not to have any regrets in life, I still do wonder if I had had more patience with either husband if bumps in the road would have evened out. Yet in the first case, I truly believe my self-esteem, (still somewhat shoddy) would have withered, and the restraints on travel surely would have hindered my son’s trajectory. In the second case, his philanderings I could have tolerated (given he didn’t bring back any disease or illness), but his manic temper would have continued a stress I grew up with my first 18 years of life and may have cut my life shorter. So I am back to thinking I have no regrets.


While researching the 8 wins and 2 nominations for Maudie, I was shocked and appalled that Sally Hawkins wasn’t named in any of the ten. Here’s where I have to pull a McEnroe, “You’ve GOT to be kidding me!!!!!!!!!!” Again this year, I may have to throw things at the t.v. if Sally Hawkins isn’t AT LEAST nominated for best actress. She is phenomenal here, not only emotionally capturing this woman, but in the physicality of her performance (Maudie suffers from debilitating arthritis).

If you’ve never seen Sally Hawkins, go out immediately and rent Happy-Go-Lucky (which I saw alone on my birthday in Rochester one year and WASN’T sad, which tells you how good the movie was). And if possible, get a hold of the short film The Phone Call where she’ll knock your socks off. Not to mention Blue Jasmine for which she was nominated for an Oscar.

Ethan Hawke is one of those guys I could watch eat toast so I enjoyed him as Maudie’s husband. But I can totally get people saying he is Ethan Hawke first, the character second. I wondered if that’s why his character wasn’t shown facially until I’m approximating 20 minutes into the movie. Perhaps the director wanted us to get his overall physical aggression before we see Ethan’s face. But I’ll always be a EH fanatic, from Dead Poet’s Society to Before the Devil Knows Your Dead, to the Before Sunset trilogy, Ethan Hawke is great!

So I wish I lived in a world with less choices, a simpler time, where people were stuck together and hence their love grew deeper. But then again, perhaps the sacrifices would be detrimental to life’s longevity. Just like Robert Frost pondered, one of life’s unanswered mysteries.