The Shape of Water Screen 19 articles

The Shape of Water


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  • Del Toro’s filmography has always been predicated upon gratuitousness, whether of violence or sentimentality, and The Shape of Water has both in spades, from its hyperbolic gore (Shannon dragging Stuhlbarg around by crooking his index finger through a gaping bullet hole in his cheek) to its vapid flights of fancy (a risible Astaire-Rogers dance fantasy) to its nudge-nudge sprinkles of manufactured Visual Poetry (not to be confused with actually beautiful compositions, of which there are none).

  • A movie that, upon reflection, seems to me to be among del Toro’s worst, even as it is being lined up by critics, festival juries, and its Oscar-mongering distributor as his crowning achievement to date. . . . There is an airless, self-adulatory quality to The Shape of Water that not only spoils the fun but reverses it, so that every ostensibly enchanted gesture becomes an alienation effect.

  • It looks marvelous—one can easily get caught up in the lavish production design and inventive special effects, and the graceful camera movements carry one through the meticulously designed environments. The storytelling is fantastic and straightforward, like that of a fairy tale. Yet The Shape of Water is also a patronizing film; del Toro and his cowriter, Vanessa Taylor, tell viewers what to think and feel at every turn, then congratulate them for responding appropriately.

  • Hawkins never overplays it. Hers is one of the most expressive faces on the planet, and it would have been so easy to go over the top with the role of a mute, mousy romantic — to fill the character’s silences with angular, expressive grotesquerie. But throughout this whole thing, she remains life-size and real. It speaks both to del Toro’s confidence and generosity that, having designed this world so thoroughly, he essentially hands the whole thing over to Hawkins.

  • Like the archetypal fairy tale it is, The Shape of Water takes few unexpected twists. There’s a fair share of gory violence and a few unsettling bursts of body horror (including a trigger warning–worthy scene with an unfortunate housecat) but little real suspense. Even if you’re not transported by every minute of the film’s story, though, del Toro creates such a sumptuous visual world that it’s impossible to take your eyes off the screen.

  • It doesn't cohere into the fairy tale promised by the dreamy opening. It makes its points with a jackhammer, wielding symbols in blaring neon. The mood of swooning romanticism is silly or moving, depending on your perspective.

  • This paramour from the deep is portrayed with supreme elegance by the actor and contortionist (and del Toro regular) Doug Jones–the performance is more like dance than anything, a muscular ode to the idea that freedom and grace can be won, but only after we break free from caution and fear. The Shape of Water is a sensual adult fairy tale that leads us deep into a dream. Waking up, and re-entering the everyday world, is the part you have to steel yourself for.

  • Though its narrative hinges on bestiality, The Shape of Water is studiously devoid of kink. Throughout, Del Toro is skittish about the practical implications of his concept, which the filmmaker utilizes for social platitudes, equating the Amphibian Man's otherness with real-life alienation and prejudice.

  • The Shape of Water, del Toro's latest, is less an attempt to fuse these two modes than a fully-fledged attempt to make one of his Spanish-language works in Hollywood, borrowing tropes with equal zest from pop culture lore of the mid-20th century, the archives of fantastic literature and surrealist art, fairy-tales, and internet fan-penned slash-fic erotica.

  • Without a whiff of preachiness, the film presents a vision in which a voiceless gamine, a gay artist, and a middle-aged black woman (Octavia Spencer) take a unified stand for tolerance in repressive 1962. The last act drags as Shannon’s schematic pursuit of the creature threatens the story’s delicate architecture, but del Toro subverts audience expectations with an old song that speaks volumes: “You’ll Never Know.”

  • Apart from delivering an object lesson to the Clooney/Coen idiocy of misreading the same period, this is magical storytelling. Crossing a rethink of Pan’s Labyrinth with a progressive remake of something as tacky as Creature of the Black Lagoon is no mean feat, and del Toro pulls it off with grace. What he does with rain is alone worth the price of admission.

  • Del Toro’s fairly conventional tale of underdog forbidden romance... was nonetheless warm, sumptuously shot and designed, and barbed with semi-subversive asides from Eliza’s outsider buddies, fellow worker Zelda (Octavia Spencer) and a closeted illustrator neighbor (Richard Jenkins). Resembling a children’s movie for grown-ups while reining in Del Toro’s worst tendencies.

  • The two characters work as radically different beings finding a shared connection in their respective isolation, but the romance that blossoms between them throughout The Shape of Water seems born only of narrative inevitability. While Jones is able to convey intelligence and cognition as the creature, he struggles to realistically suggest actual, physical longing without ignoring the innocent, almost childlike nature of the monster's early interactions with others.

  • It has exquisite design, voluptuous romanticism, and piquant playfulness. It also has an overall rigidity that unfortunately works against the fluidity of its fantasy realms and camera movements. Like James Whale, del Toro’s fascination and sympathy are always with those marginalized, transgressive outcasts tagged “monsters.” Yet his tendency to neatly schematize his characters, to pin them down like butterflies, tempers his poetry.

  • The script of The Shape of Water is elegantly crafted, with motifs wending through it, most obviously the water imagery that pervades the film, from the opening to the skittering drops of water that Elisa traces on the exterior of the bus window. Del Toro also sets up important plot points subtly and clearly... The result [of the score] is a buoyancy (to continue the water theme) that helps counteract the grimness and threat in many of the scenes.

  • For all its transgressions and ravishing execution (buoyed by an Alexandre Desplat score), this may ultimately be no more than melodrama in a monster costume, less scathing than Sirk but perhaps just as deceptive in its time. Del Toro has conceivably fashioned in his beautiful beast a 21st-century iteration of Carmen Miranda’s fruit suit, a shimmering shell that attends a host of fantasies. That it should inspire cruelty is indeed evidence that time is a river flowing backwards

  • It’s a very fine cast, with Hawkins handling scenes that could so easily have felt precious or mawkish if she were not so perfectly in control of her silent fairytale character. She can be simultaneously a charming frump and a thrilling diva, like any Cinderella-cum-wannabe-Mermaid should... Del Toro proves he knows how to add just the right amount of every cinematic ingredient at the right time for such an uplifting anti-fascist experience, and we sure need those right now.

  • Guillermo del Toro channels all the streams that make him unique into The Shape Of Water, pouring his heart, soul and considerable craft into an exquisite creature fable. A delicate homage, to both his forbears of Golden Age Hollywood and those who first captured the spirit of the monster myth, this is del Toro at his most poignant and sweet, eschewing the harder edges of horror and releasing a torrent of warmth into a precisely calibrated setting.

  • If it’s true that every culture gets the fairytales it deserves, it’s hard to see what we’ve done lately to merit anything as lovely as “The Shape of Water.” It’s a Cold War paranoia thriller, a 1950s-style creature feature... so brimming with romance and adventure that its effect overflows the screen, filling up rooms and flooding the cinema and threatening to leak through to the floor below. It is the greatest showcase for del Toro’s mercurial, dark-tinged but delightful sensibilities.

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