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3.5 out of 5 stars
Lady in the Water (Widescreen Edition)
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87 of 95 people found the following review helpful
on January 3, 2010
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
I think this is one of the most underrated films of the century. The bad reviews baffle me quite a bit because this has become one of my all time favourites. Lady in the Water reminds us of the magic that we left behind as we grew out of childhood. It shows us that we all have a place in life, no matter how trivial we think it is. This is a fairy tale for grown ups.

In addition to being visually stunning in every way, Lady in the Water has just the right balance of action, horror, drama and comedy, supported by a great cast of actors that bring everything to this story.

I am very much moved by this film and it is one of the few that I can watch again and again. If you have just a little fraction left of that innocent, inner child, then you will surely find the magic here as well.
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82 of 93 people found the following review helpful
on July 27, 2006
I must admit that my children and myself were the only ones in the theatre laughing at the many humorous moments in the movie. I am not sure why everyone was not enjoying themselves and when I got home and read the many critical reviews posted online I began to understand. This movie is not hitting home with a majority of the viewers, and it is too bad because on first viewing it appeared to me to be one of the best modern fairy tales that I have seen. I believe a part of the problem is that the trailer I saw for the film misrepresents it as a horror film. Then I believe many people are unwilling to go along with the fairy tale premise. This is a fairy tale. It is a bedtime story. So sit back relax and enjoy the story. It is a wonderful modern myth that speaks to larger issues of faith and who we are on a personel level. The movie is wonderfully shot, told, and presented. I enjoyed the way the story unfolds and the many very funny scenes. It is difficult to tell this type of story without losing the audience part way through and I felt Shyamalan did a masterful job of holding things together. This was the kind of filmgoing experience I was hoping for from Terry Gilliam's "The Brother's Grimm" but was horribly dissapointed. If you like modern day fairy tales, like good humor and are not easily confused then I would highly recommend this film. From the negative reviews I have seen and the audience I saw the film with, this film is not for everyone, but I found it a real gem.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on March 13, 2010
Format: DVD
An apartment building superintendent named Cleveland who discovers a magical sea-nymph named Story who's been transported to this world and is living in the building's own swimming pool. As this bizarre revelation sinks in, Cleveland becomes enraptured by her other-worldly charm. As he shelters her in his apartment, other inhabitants of the building begin falling into place as representations of characters from an Eastern myth in which these mermaids, or "narfs," co-exist unhappily with more beastly and violent characters. In human reality, the forces of darkness that threaten the heroes of a fairy tale prove to be much more terrifying, and the victory of good over evil is by no means guaranteed. "Lady in the Water" has a wonderful cast, the script is well written and at times funny, the plot is very simple and straightforward but towards the end of the movie is quite touching. This movie doesn't talk down to its audience but its content is fantastical and fairytale-ish. A grown-up "bedtime story" that is fantastic and thoroughly enjoyable.
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145 of 188 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon August 24, 2006
M. Night Shyamalan doesn't do plain movies. As an artists he has his own unique approach of seeing extraordinary tales in mundane things whether its aliens, mythical beasts, ghosts or a mysterious azure pool. This tale is like no other, perhaps can be thought of as a tale of good and evil, of human purpose, common ground and understanding. When a mysterious pale woman with red hair saves an apartment superintendent, who looked like he gave up upon falling into the pool, simply because he didn't see a purpose to living, she brings hope and a sense of purpose to him and other tenants. Together they try to figure out who she is and why she came into their lives.

Story, is the name of the woman, perhaps those who save the Village, recognize her as the blind brave daughter Ivy Walker, takes on another roles this time as a narf, a word that does not really exist in an English dictionary but a word that takes on meaning by the time the movie ends. She is a fairy like creature that is on a mission and needs help from Cleveland Heep the stuttering superintendent who loses his stutter and finds his true calling. She needs to find a safe passage back to her own world, which is guarded by an evil wolf like beast, invisible to all but those who know how to find it. Together all the characters have to decipher the answers behind what she says and in all reality they have to save the modern world. She tells one of them that he will be a great orator and his book will change the world, cease wars and bring peace, she tells another that he can heal; others learn that they will have profound impact on the feuding life and who will improve life around them if they take the risks and do what she says.

This was a visually stunning and memorable movie, with hair rising music and some really jumpy special effects, especially with the wolf. Yes there are monsters and there are casualties but then there is a sense of purpose, of a mystery coming together brought upon this mysterious creature, who in my interpretation is an angel. She brings hope and love and unites those who sulk and lose their touch. It's a beautiful story that leaves one thinking long after leaving the theater, a story that feeds the soul and feeds a hungry mind ready for something different. It's a fairy tale that leaves one feeling good and light, with hope and understanding of the future. M. Night Shyamalan is such a fantasy wizard that no matter how outrageous his stories are they have a ring to truth about them. I can't wait to see what he cooks up next, for he is fabulous for those who like something special.

- Kasia S.
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18 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on December 1, 2006
Format: DVD
see the movie for yourself. I listened to these 1 star reviews and waited a while to see it. I loved it. All Im saying is, dont just listen to the bad reviews, go out and see it yourself so you can say if YOU liked it or not.
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24 of 34 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon July 24, 2006
'Shyamalan's latest film is a quirky art film with a fairy tale sensibility. The story revolves around a sad disillusioned man, Cleveland Heep, who has given up everything after the loss of his family. Heep discovers a mystical creature, a narf, in the pool of the apartment complex he manages. Malevolent forces lurk in the gardens around the pool which she must be protected against. Ultimately this magical creature must be restored from whence she came. This quest to save the narf ends up involving many of the oddball yet normal apartment dwellers Heep has come to know over time. In the process of saving this creature, he find his own redemption and possibly hope for the future of our world.

This move has an enchanting storyline with intricate plot twists. The main stars, Paul Giamatti and Bryce Howard, are perfectly cast. Shyamalan plays a small, yet compelling role in the film. The look of the film is unadorned-these are ordinary people pursuing ordinary lives. There is humor and pathos in the lives of these people. Yet, when galvanized by the hope of something out of the ordinary and an opportunity to do good, these "normal" people gather around and give their all. In essence this film shows the magic of the everday.

This is a fairy tale on film-with all the strangeness and skewed logic of the fairy tale world. Not for those who are looking for a slick Hollywood film.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Format: DVD
It took me awhile before I got around to seeing M. Night Shyamalan's much-disparaged "Lady in the Water." Virtually everyone I know who'd seen the film warned me against a viewing. Critics used the movie as target practice. The flick even managed to pick up two ignominious "Razzie" Awards (the opposite of the Oscars, to put it kindly), both of which went to M. Night as "worst director" and "worst supporting actor" of 2006. But how bad could a movie be directed by the guy who made "Unbreakable," an underrated masterpiece?

So see it I did, and (to quote P.G. Wodehouse) I'm not disgruntled, but I'm far from gruntled. "Lady in the Water" is silly, incoherent, unsatisfying, self-indulgent...and thoroughly watchable. Even entertaining. Because Shyamalan's movies are distinctively his own, and he believes in his own vision. The man's self-faith borders on lunacy, but the predominantly bland, marketing-driven world of modern movies could use a few more eccentric visionaries (even if that eccentric visionary believes WAY too much of his own hype).

Speaking of that, M. Night definitely laid an egg when he cast himself in the film as a writer whose words will change the world. Story (Bryce Dallas Howard) prophecies of a "great orator" who will one day read his (I mean his character's) book, and "your book will be the seeds of many of his great thoughts." Most viewers will consider this offensively hubristic. And so it is, but it's also strangely endearing. Shyamalan actually wants to change the world. When Cleveland, the lovable shlub hero (who else but Paul Giamatti?), is asked by a hermitic tenant whether he believes mankind is worth saving, he answers "Yes" without batting an eyelash. I appreciate a filmmaker who dares to invest his stories with an almost desperate need for the transcendent.

Maybe that quality is why I can't help but like his movies (haven't seen "The Happening" yet... heard it was even worse than this one!), even when they so clearly misfire, as in this case. "Lady in the Water" is so un-cynical, it's virtually begging for snide remarks. Shyamalan didn't help himself by trading in his trademark tight storytelling for something sloppy and ill-conceived. But his follies are on a grand scale -- here he aims to make a modern myth and falls precipitously short -- but he's trying, God bless him. The old saying goes: Aim for the stars, land on the barnyard roof. And you know what? The view from the barnyard roof's not always so shabby.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format: DVD
M. Night Shyamalan's LADY IN THE WATER is often cited as the film that changed his career. While he hoped the film would place him irrevocably among the pantheon of greats (he had been compared to Alfred Hitchcock since his first major film, THE SIXTH SENSE, won critical acclaim in 1999), it ended up as the start of his slide into mediocrity. The critics were ruthless when LADY was released, and audiences agreed that the film was a muddled mess. But for some reason I like it. And I'm not totally sure why.

At its heart, LADY IN THE WATER is a fable based on a bedtime story Shyamalan made up for his own children. The plot centers on a sea nymph named Story (Bryce Dallas Howard) who mysteriously appears in the swimming pool of a run-down apartment complex in Philadelphia. The manager of the complex, Cleveland Heep (Paul Giamatti), tries to figure out who Story is, where she came from, and what her mission is. She tells Heep that she's a "Narf" from the "Blue World" who has come in search of a writer whose words are destined to change the future. After she finds him, she can return to the Blue World . . . that is, if she can elude the vicious "Scrunts" that are determined to stop her. To help Story, Cleveland must identify certain people from among the apartment complex's oddball residents to play the roles of "Healer," "Guardian," "Symbolist," and "Guild." Only they can help her get home.

There are some really good things about LADY IN THE WATER. First, Paul Giamatti is phenomenal as beleaguered apartment manager Cleveland Heep. This is a guy who was once a doctor, with a wife and children . . . but now he's alone and depressed and without an apparent purpose in life. He is onscreen for almost all of the film's 110 minutes, and he's wonderfully watchable. Some of the other actors are also quite good, including Bryce Dallas Howard as Story (she comes across as sort of a mermaid with legs), Cindy Cheung as Korean student Young-Soon Choi (who helps Cleveland unravel the strands of the fairy tale), and Bob Balaban has some of the film's funniest moments as a self-absorbed film critic (more on him later).

Also, the juxtaposition of the fantastical fairy tale and the very down-to-earth reality of the apartment complex and its residents can be quite charming. There's something very satisfying in watching Giamatti's character struggle with absurd terms like "Narf" and "Scrunt" as he tries to figure out whether the guy who spends his days doing crossword puzzles could be the "Symbolist." Is the group of over-the-hill hippies (who smoke and philosophize all day) the "Guild"? And is Clevelend himself Story's "Guardian"? And does it matter than none of this makes one bit of logical sense?

Not really. But other things do matter. The fairy tale (or bedtime story, as Shyamalan calls it) is so convoluted, and so difficult to explain, that too much has to be told through exposition. Heep asks Young-Soon about the story, and she asks her mother (who speaks only Korean) - the conversations between the three of them are meant to inform the viewers, but it loses its charm fairly quickly. Additionally, it's not at all clear why only these two Korean women have heard this particular fairy tale . . . and why couldn't Heep have just checked on the Internet? More egregious are the dreadful special effects, which look like something out of the old "Power Rangers" TV show. The Scrunt, which is supposed to be a creature with grass-like fur, looks like a cartoon wolf draped in AstroTurf. The "Tarturic" (described as horrifying creatures sent to stop the Scrunts) look like funny monkeys covered in twigs. And the supposedly majestic "Great Eatlon" (the giant eagle meant to carry Story home to the Blue World at the end of the film) is not really shown at all. For this film to work, the creatures need to be as real as Story is -- and they are not.

But the most difficult problem with LADY IN THE WATER is Shyamalan's insistence on using the film not only for shameless self-promotion (after all, he casts himself as visionary writer Vick Ran, whose words are destined to change the world) but to get revenge against the critics who had the audacity to criticize THE VILLAGE (released the year before LADY). Bob Balaban's character is a smug, arrogant film critic who mocks the films he's paid to review - his is the only character to die in this film, and it's clear that he is a product of Shyamalan's rage. These things make the film seem uncomfortably personal, as if we're all watching a Shyamalan home movie, or somehow wading around inside Shyamalan's murky brain. And the story itself gets lost somewhere along the way.

Why do I still like this movie? I honestly don't know. I like the idea that myths and fables carry within them a grain of truth. As Young-Soon tells Heep, "It's time to prove some stories are real." I also like the idea that we all have a purpose in life, but it's not always easy to discover what that purpose is. In this film, Heep is lost. He no longer has hope in the future, and at its core LADY is expressing his longing "to believe in more than this dreadful world." That's a longing I share.

I see glimpses in this film of what it could have been, had Shyamalan been able to step away from the production enough to see it without his own very personal blinders. Heep's journey is deeply meaningful, as revealed in the climactic scene when he and the others are finally coming together to help Story. Through his experiences with her and with those pledged to help her, he finds not only his true purpose but a real understanding of what it means to live. This is so much more important, and so much more engaging, than the silly side-plot about a writer whose words will save the world. Shyamalan's films will not save the world. That is not his purpose, whether he realizes this or not. LADY IN THE WATER should have been a beautiful little film about one man's spiritual journey. Even as it is, it's a charming parable worth watching. See it for what it could have been, rather than for what it is.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format: DVD
I liked this film so well I looked up the writer/producer/director M. Night Shyamalan in Wikipedia before I started this review. I found he has done some other films, only a couple were at all successful: The Sixth Sense, Signs and The Village. Apparently his style is not all that Hollywood (and especially Disney Studios, from which he has broken away) would want. But he's an Indian-American brought up in the Philadelphia Main Line, a wealthy suburban region I know something about from my life in Pennsylvania. Most of his films have been made in and around Philadelphia.

The Lady in the story is a water sprite, not a mermaid. She has legs. Very pretty ones, in fact. As the opening legend (even ahead of the title credits) tells us, the water people have tried for years to contact humans, with whom they were once in close harmony, to help us with our spiritual development. They do this at great personal risk, but they feel it is essential.

Our particular Lady, whose name is Story, shows up in the swimming pool of a rather odd apartment building, populated by a truly unique cast of characters. They are of different races, different temperaments, religions and lack of same, and so on. The manager stutters terribly except when he's in the presence of Story. Story's purpose is to be seen by a writer who has an important destiny. This writer is played by Shyamalan himself, who is a very charming young man. He has been writing a book which has not come together yet, but which is a series of fragments about life and philosophy and politics and such. When he sees Story, he is able to see clearly how to put the book together. She tells him about the future of the book, and his own personal future as well.

It turns out Story's story corresponds to a traditional bed-time story remembered by the old Chinese lady who lives in the building with her extremely modern daughter. Using the daughter as interpreter, the traditional tale is told, with enough clues to realize that the inhabitants of this building did not come together by accident, but specifically because they are destined to help Story to get back home.

How they figure out their individual roles in the drama needed to get Story safely back to her home, and what they each discover about themselves and each other in the process, makes a charming tale that makes a very important point. We all have a role to play, a purpose to being alive, and the people around us in our lifetime are there for a reason. We come together in order to support one another's spiritual development.

As I was thinking about this, I got a message from one of my favorite people on the Internet, telling me she had just been thinking about the value of the circle of friends she has made through the Internet, and sounding very much like she had just been listening to my brain, or I to hers.

Perhaps in the modern world these circles exist in hyperspace as well as locally, eh?

I have to give this movie three stars. I'd like to give it four, but it does seem just a little too precious at times, and a wee bit contrived. Only a wee bit, but that keeps it from a full four stars.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on July 24, 2006
I was going to see this movie on Friday, but after all the bad reviews I decided to wait for the DVD. Well, I was bored on Sunday and Lady in the Water was my best bet to kill some time. Believe it or not, I think this is one of M. Night's best films. It wasn't as confusing as people have said, and Paul Giamatti and Bryce Dallas Howard turn in fantastic performances. There is humor, drama, and wonder throughout this two hour fantasy. The adults in my theater seemed to like it, though I think most teens will find the film's pacing very slow. I am glad I ignored the bad buzz and witnessed one of my favorite films of the year so far.
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