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The Shape of Water

The Shape of Water (2017)

The film could best be described as an R-rated adult fairy tale. It has evidently garnered Hollywood's imprimatur as one of this year's "it" films, which will likely be reflected on Oscar night.

The acting and technical craft work were first rate, creating technicolor characters and spooky moods. There are Sally Hawkins as the lonely mute girl; Richard Jenkins as the girl's neighbor and confidant; Michael Shannon as the evil Colonel; Octavia Spencer as the girl's co-worker; and Michael Stuhlbarg as the soviet spy with a heart.

But the sole popularity of the film will depend upon it's emotional appeal to those captured by the poignant story of a poor mute girl who finds love and fulfillment with a humanoid amphibian; the Cinderella meets The Creature from the Black Lagoon aspect. For those focusing on the story line, it might seem more nearly like a cliche-ridden farce-- a DC Comics treatment of a fairy tale.

Being so similar to the melodrama of silent films, "Water" could have almost been shot without dialogue. We have the pitiful damsel, Elisa, wonderfully played by Sally Hawkins. Next is the Simon Legree character, Col. Strickland, who is overwritten to the extreme that anyone capable of that degree of sadistic viciousness could only be locked in an institution for the criminally insane. Michael Shannon outdoes himself in this role that is perfectly in his wheel house. Richard Jenkins as Giles, the other noteworthy fine portrayal behind Hawkins', provides another downtrodden character to befriend Elisa, and who we don't realize is the obligatory gay until another man recoils from his tender touch (the Neanderthal homophobe!).

Moving ahead to the talkie era, as the co-worker we have a Hattie McDaniel character ("You know ain't none of them men any good, honey!") played by Octavia Spencer. Rounding out the top five, Michael Stuhlbarg plays the mad scientist, Dr. Hoffstetler, who also doubles as a --what else-- evil Russian spy. If Hitchcock's belief is true that the better the villain the better the movie, then in a movie with a villain for the ages (and other nasties thrown in to boot) will be a shoo-in for greatness.

There will likely be two general reactions to this film. The first, like my wife's, representing the instinctual female point of view, will be an identification with the Elisa character, and an empathetic arousal over Elisa's finding tenderness and love from a beast who carries her away to happiness in the world's waterways. The second , like mine, might be a recognition that the fairy tale of a beast in shining armor has its tender side, but that the other facets of the story are ridiculous to the point of silliness. After all, if one is willing to take the love story aspect seriously then it's a likely that one could also take in stride the similar preposterous other portions. But if the entire premise seems ridiculous then none of it would be particularly digestible.

And finally, Hollywood has in recent years reached nearly to the rock bottom of sexual deviance and aberration themes. The only things left were bestiality and necrophilia. Evidently they've decided to normalize the former, and leave the latter for a future trump card. At least in Beauty and the Beast, the beast returns to human form, whereas in The Shape of Water we have full-on bestiality. We're left with the proposition that lonely introverted people can find emotional and sexual fulfillment with animals. And that its pursuit is acceptable and touching.

Hide your pets, folks!

Doc's rating: 7/10 for acting/crafts/technical; 3/10 for story; average 5/10