The Shape of Water is a magical fairy tale for grown-ups. One of the most beautifully shot films ever made, it’s a mashup of the Creature From The Black Lagoon, ET and Beauty and the Beast. I was so honored to meet director Guillermo Del Toro and chat a bit with him at the Fox Searchlight holiday party. He, stated that this is his most personal tale and was a full six years in the making. He further explained that, due to the current craziness in our country, he wanted the main characters to come from the most marginalized communities – women, disabled, African-American, and gay.
The plot is ingenious and unique. Sally Hawkins plays Elisa, a passionate and senusous mute girl, who falls for a magical sea creature being held by corrupt government officials. Richard Jenkins is a standout as her gay neighbor and best friend. Set in the 60’s during the Civil Rights era, it is painful to watch struggle with his sexuality. Michael Shannon plays the villain, an evil bureaucrat, who sexually harasses Elisa and tortures and wants to kill the creature. His cruelty and racism brought to mind the resurgence we are seeing of this sort of abhorrent behavior in American society today. But from my conversation with Del Toro, that was precisely the point. In the Shape of Water, the real villain is white supremacy.
There were a couple things I would have done differently. First, Octavia is typecast as sassy black work friend. I wish someone would write a role for her that doesn’t involve stereotypical fuzzing, head and eye rolling. I also could have done without the gratuitous cat murder, which disturbed me for at least fifteen minutes after it occurred. It just wasn’t needed and did not advance the plot. And finally, no black man would just sit by while a white man threatened his wife in his home. The sole black man in the film came off as a trifling weakling. That said, this is one of my favorite movies of the year and will surely be up for multiple nods at Oscar time. I predict Best Director for Del Toro, Best Actress for Sally Hawkins and Best Supporting Actor for Richard Jenkins. The cinematographer should win.
Cast: Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Octavia Spencer, Michael Stuhlbarg, Doug Jones, David Hewlett, Nick Searcy
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Genres: Romance, Fantasy
Production Co: TSG Entertainment, Double Dare You
Distributors: Fox Searchlight