Eppler: "Shape of Water" is the deep end of monster movies

Eppler: "Shape of Water" is the deep end of monster movies

"The Shape of Water" is best understood as a fairy tale from the gloriously vivid imagination of writer and director Guillermo del Toro, who has built this film on the foundation of his love of classic monster movies. It's no accident the main characters live in an apartment built on top of a movie theater - and yes, the movies screening there are significant as are so many of the little details of this picture.

Set in 1960, "The Shape of Water" is most influenced by 1954's "Creature from the Black Lagoon." But instead of wanting to escape from the monster's clutches, the heroine here is totally into it.

Sally Hawkins stars as Elisa, a mute woman who works on the cleaning crew for a government research lab which just obtained a humanoid sea creature (Doug Jones). She develops a relationship with the thing, and since neither can speak, their connection is all through movement, music, and something deeper that need not be spoken.

Richard Jenkins is wonderful as Elisa's neighbor, whom she asks for help rescuing the creature from a sadistic fed - the perfectly cast Michael Shannon. There's more great supporting work from Octavia Spencer and Michael Stuhlbarg rounding out a fantastic cast of character actors. Each are given their own stories that play into the larger narrative comfortably. 

Del Toro's movie is beautiful in every way - from the story to the picture itself. Even scenes in grungy bathrooms look gorgeous. The perfectly complimentary score by Alexandre Desplat deserves an Oscar, and Hawkins' wordless performance is a stunner - recalling classic silent comedies in one moment and breaking your heart the next.

"The Shape of Water" is beyond a typical monster movie. It is thoughtful, socially conscious and wildly imaginative - encouraging audiences to come play in the deep end.

Opening in Lubbock Friday at Alamo Drafthouse

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