shaken & stirred

welcome to my martini glass

8.02.2004

the movie formerly known as "The Woods"

I feel pretty silly spending even the tiny amount of time thinking about this movie that it's going to take to compose this entry, but Rob has asked what I thought of The Village and I suppose I'll answer.

I've noticed with M. Night Shyamalan movies that it's best not to think about them too much. Correction: This applies only to M. Night Shyamalan movies after The Sixth Sense, or only if you've seen or read about his other movies and plan to go back and watch The Sixth Sense. Shyamalan movies tend to disintegrate bit by bit, the more you tug at a thread, the more what you thought was a shirt looks like a scarf, then just a few threads stitched together the wrong way.

The movies are okay while you're watching them; sometimes even better than okay. There are things that Shymalan does know how to do, and on a technical level he does them very well. What he hasn't quite figured out how to repeat, or how to vary enough to not be his own echo chamber, is how to just tell the fucking story. He gets in his own way. His complexity hides inanity or even nonsense (Signs). He undercuts the tension in his own narratives by telling things out of sequence that shouldn't be, by giving away too much so he can set up the twist for later, by flashing back to something it'd be better to weave into the story.

In short, he needs to hire someone to rewrite his scripts. A solid screenwriter could take the gems of these movies, which I really do think are intriguing and could work, and make them glitter. What we get isn't the best possible version of the idea -- which is always the goal -- it's something that's too in love with itself. An idea that wasn't interrogated enough by the writer or the director and, boy, are you in trouble when that's the case and those two people are one and the same.

I don't want to spoil the movie for anyone, but suffice to say there's a twist. The movie's all in good fun while you're watching it, and is in many ways more restrained than anything Shymalan's done since The Sixth Sense. I don't want those two hours of my life back, they were fine. But I do want back the time I'll spend thinking about the movie The Village could have been and should have been. It's infuriating to watch these movies. Someone needs to push M. Night harder.

But they never will. And he seems content to talk in interviews about how his taste just seems to mesh with the mass populace. And I think there's probably some truth to that. But. His taste could be executed better and I wish he would figure that out and do something about it and stop being a lazy writer and a self-indulgent director.

The thing that saves the movie is the caliber of talent in it. Some of the lines are so wooden that only John Hurt, Sigourney Weaver or (yes, she's amazing) newcomer Bryce Dallas Howard could save them. And they do, save them, mostly. (Message to Adrien Brody: did you really think playing the creepy slow guy would be your breakthrough star role in American blockbusters? Fire your agent.)

That's the end of my take on it, but I'd been meaning to toss out a couple of Shymalan quotes from a Premiere interview I read on the plane a few weeks ago (and which it turns out is online). The movie was inspired, as you probably know, by Wuthering Heights. There's maybe, maybe one scene that reminds me a little of the moors and has that kind of resonance. But here's what he had to say about that:

I read Wuthering Heights. It was offered to me to do with two A-list actors in the leads. And I ended up saying no to that, but I read it and I just felt such a kinship to the writer. There was a tinge of the "other" there. It's slightly a ghost story and a dark love story. It just stayed with me so much. And you don't want to always stay in your wheelhouse. I was really attracted to this period genre, not to be done in a Little Women-ish kind of way, but with an edge. When I started to write it, it was really, really refreshing, because you can't write with sarcasm or irony. For example, if I said, "I like you," it comes with a connotation that I thought I wouldn't like you, because we're talking right now. Whereas in that period, it just means I like you. And then take that and put it in a period of history when America was unexplored. So much unexplored that they really believed that there were creatures that they didn't know about. They would send people out to forests to find woolly mammoths and things. So that made me feel like, well, that's a great movie right there.

Yeah, it could have been. And on his discovery Bryce Dallas Howard:

[Bryce] is just singular. She is not tainted; you can't hear the grunge in her voice. You can't hear the "I tried pot eight times until I finally liked it." "I puked last night." You just can't hear that. Whether it's in her history or not-it's just not in her movements. I defy you to hear her and not think, "Wow."


Do you think he's talking specifically about Kirsten Dunst who she replaced there?

Editor's note: I have not spell-checked Shalama's name and it may not be spelled right throughout. Deal.

Some links to other takes:

David Edelstein review at Slate
Stephen Hunter review in WP
Bryce Dallas Howard profile

3 Comments:

  • At 8:02 PM , Blogger Christopher said...

    You forgot to mention Joaquim "The Least Annoying" Phoenix. I think that guy's kind of interesting, somebody who pretty consistently takes risks that pretty consistently don't pay off, but who keeps taking 'em anyway. I'd like to see him do an action movie lead and stay away from villain roles. In this one he was nicely subdued and the only parts of his performance I didn't like had more to do with the script (or, God save me, with the slo-mo) than with his delivery.

     
  • At 12:20 AM , Blogger Celia said...

    In a random side note, Joaquin, or as I prefer to call him, "Leaf", looks *old* in all the publicity shots I've seen of him, despite the fact that most of me is pretty sure he's under 30 (and the wonder that is the IMDB proves I am right).

    And Gwenda, among the people on LJ that are reading your feed is Neil Gaiman's son.

     
  • At 5:59 AM , Blogger gwenda said...

    I know -- I love Mikey. Known him for years.

     

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