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Film Review: THE SHAPE OF WATER

With 13 Oscar nominations this year, The Shape of Water will likely swim by you at some point, if it hasn't already. Like many a fairy tale, the story starts out kind of dreamy, gets seriously creepy, then ends up dreamy again. The opening holds such promise, with an intriguing lack of explanation of anything that's going on, accompanied by a great musical score and beautiful, watery images. Starring Sallie Hawkins as a mute cleaning lady with a dull-as-dishwater life, it's easy to see why she would fall for a fish-faced creature from an Amazon lagoon in a skintight wet suit that lights up when he's happy. I mean, who wouldn't?

Half-Man, half-RuPaul?
Then the plot shows up, and it's a doozy. There are Russian spies, a double agent, a very mean villain the audience can hiss at, a half-man-half-fish creature under lock and key at a secret government facility, and a damsel-in-distress in need of rescuing. Throw in some implied racism, a nod to gay pride and a whole lot of we-love-immigrants sentiment, set it all down in the fabulous 60s, and you've got it. We know it's the 60s because of the cars and the advertising, plus there's always a TV on somewhere showing old sitcoms like Mr. Ed and Gilligan's Island.

There are also lots of references to old movies -- better movies -- and even entire plots, i.e. King Kong, Creature from the Black Lagoon, Avatar, and E.T. Combined with a non-stop score of lovely old love songs, it's easy to become distracted from the fact that this film is actually new, and dumb, although we are being manipulated into thinking it's deep. Even more irksome, the leading Fish/Man looks like Barry Manilow several facelifts ago, with a bit of RuPaul flair. Not a comedy, still it's often laugh-out-loud funny; it just might be bad enough to win Best Picture.



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Film Review: THE SHAPE OF WATER

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