I know the title sounds clickbaity as all hell. But bear with me, because I’m actually quite serious. If beauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder, for some reason, this beholder finds a lot of beauty in what other people consider to be utter garbage.
M. Night Shyamalan went from Hollywood darling to near-unemployable in the space of a couple of films, but I honestly think he got a really bad deal. So, today, I want to talk to you guys about some of his perceived stinkers that I actually quite enjoy.
THE HAPPENING (2008)
I’m starting with the one that will probably have most people going: “What? NO!”. And for good reason: The Happening is quite possibly one of the worst-written films of its decade to get a mega-wide release and huge stars. In fact, I think its script-quality-to-stars-attached ratio is nearly as off as 2013’s The Big Wedding. And that’s saying something, as that one at least featured Robin Williams.
The plot is certainly intriguing, and ahead of its time in more ways than one. Not only would the film touch on a potential environmental response to human pollution, but also, it’d feature Mark Whalberg as a scientist working a job he’s very much overqualified for.
The truth is, this is quite possibly the most indefensible of my choices. I’ve owned a DVD copy of this film for over a decade, and I still don’t know why I like it. I just do: I find it fun, more profound than it probably is, and I don’t mind the performances. I actually eagerly await the famous lines now. Not even ironically, either. They represent a very particular moment in movie-making history. Am I reading too much into it? Most definitely. But this is my list, so The Happening stays.
THE VILLAGE (2004)
Unlike The Happening, which I like despite considering it (objectively) a bad film, I like The Village because I honestly believe it’s brilliant. I won’t get too much into why right now, because I’m actually writing a piece on that very subject soon. And considering it’s taken me weeks to convince the editors to let me write it in the first place, you better believe I’m going to milk it when the time comes.
But I can certainly give you guys a taste of what’s coming. First off, I think it just became cool to hate on this film because everyone’s been doing it for so long. It’s the status quo, as normal as taking a shower or clipping your nails with a Bowey knife. But I don’t know how many people have actually seen it, let alone seen it recently. And of those, I wonder how many people really think it’s bad.
Another reason why I think people’s views on it might be skewed is that they really did not see the twist coming. Some might argue that it wasn’t the twist they wanted, but really, I thought it was unexpected and a fun take on the whole thing.
Finally, I found the film to be believable. More on this on my exclusive piece, but if I had the opportunity, I would also use whatever economic resources I had to create an environment which protected people who might experience pain and discrimination in society.
I 100% think Adrian Brody’s character is a shambles, though.
LADY IN THE WATER (2006)
I’ve heard every argument under the sun against Lady in the Water, and I’m still convinced it’s a great film. I find some of the metaphors hilarious, particularly when it comes to film critics. But fair play to Shyamalan, as I think critics were actually being unfair to his films back then. So, all’s forgiven.
What cannot be forgiven is the marketing focus that annihilated any chances this film had of being well received. In a classic case of “Bad Traileritis”, the whole campaign poised Lady in the Water as a horror film, when it was actually a modern fairy tale.
Now, as far as fairy tales go, Shyamalan’s efforts perhaps fall a bit short of classics like Snowhite and Rudy (1993). But hand-on-heart, I think it’s a great film with a touching story and solid performances. I felt moved on more than one occasion, and Bryce Dallas Howard has yet to embody a character in a manner that is less than perfect.
As with other of M. Night’s good films, Lady in the Water isn’t perfect. By far and away, however, the worst sin the film commits is having a marketing team that knew nothing of what the film was trying to convey.
And that’s my list! I hope you enjoyed it. I want to reiterate that this isn’t a sarcastic piece or me just wanting to get some quick clicks. I truly enjoy these movies and own them in one format or another. It’s very easy, in this snarky world, to just pile on the complaints. And sadly, over time, Shyamalan’s work has become an easy target. But I urge you to revisit some of his flicks with an open mind. I think you’ll be surprised at what you find.