L&D headed out for The Shape of Water Thursday night and boy are we glad that we did. It’s Beauty and the Beast for the Cold War set, only with a lot more egg imagery and masturbation. The protagonist is a solitaire, semi-beautiful mute woman, Elisa (Sally Hawkins), who lives in an apartment above the movie theater next to her neighbor (Richard Jenkins), an erstwhile commercial artist, closeted lonely guy, cat lover. They watch a lot of movies and spend their time being lonely together. Elisa takes the bus to her work at a top-secret government site, where she works on the cleaning staff alongside Zelda (Octavia Spencer), who provides a running stream-of-consciousness one-way dialog throughout the day. The site is supervised by Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon), a candy-chomping shitheel who was responsible for transporting an amphibious creature up to Baltimore, and is now in charge of securing the creature for whatever it is the US military and/or its Soviet rivals are going to do with it.
That’s the basic setup, but the movie really isn’t about the story, it’s about a lot of other things. It’s shot beautifully, with a really cool color scheme. The acting is brilliant — it’s hard to imagine Hawkins, Spencer, Jenkins or Shannon being better cast or providing better performances. It has some great writing and some memorable lines (“There is no profit in last week’s fish”). It is laugh-out-loud funny in spots. It is uncomfortable and disturbing in others. It has scenes so excruciatingly painful that I had to cover my eyes, and scenes so beautiful that I forgot how ridiculous the whole thing was. It reminds me of The Purple Rose of Cairo with its running homage to the great movies, and a main character who can’t help but find herself lost in them.
So, this should be on our top movies list for the year, but that ship has sailed. I’m pretty sure it’s not for everybody, but for us it was over the $6 bar for sure. I might even see if the misses wants to check it out. I’m better looking than the leading man for a change.