The Lady in the Water trailer came out ages ago, but I’d like to revisit it for a moment. (Also: We’re probably due for a full trailer any second now.) I’ve now watched it several times, with several different people. The reactions are always the same: Near-rapture and deep curiosity, the promise of unlikely magic humming in the air… right up to the moment these words flash up:
“A Bedtime Story… written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan.”
At which point open mouths purse into smirks, Swedish Fish packets are torn open loudly and with contempt, and both grumbly chuckles and chuckling grumbles can be heard across the theater.
It’s not just knee-jerk, anti-Shyamalan venom, though that’s certainly a factor. Never has such a talented filmmaker worn out his welcome so quickly, thanks solely to the elephantine dimensions of his ego. Yes, please, M. Night! Become increasingly shamanic in your public pronouncements and interviews! Enter the world of your own movie to explain some plot point we were in mortal danger of figuring out ourselves! Walk us through the twists and turns! Explain how you locked the ghost of the Amish, allergic-to-water alien in the pantry! Drone us some exposition in that supremely unmagical regular-dude voice of yours!
Ahem. Apologies. I’m getting emotional. Thing is, I love Night’s eye. I love the way he looks at things. I love the way he peels back the veneer of reality with such excruciating gradualness. I love the quiet sense of wonder he cultivates. If only he could detach Eye from Self. Some artists don’t have to, but this one absolutely must. In Night’s case, the Self is dragging the Eye down. So when you hear “A Bedtime Story from M. Night Shyamalan,” you fixate not on the story, but the storyteller — the smug, smug storyteller — and the almighty gall of a guy who’d presume to tuck you in and tell you a story that he’s so sure you’re going to love. I have not read the tie-in book, but it would not surprise me at all if he appears in it as a pop-up.
Honesty time: Who was into the Lady teaser right up to the moment his name came on?
Next time, we shall discuss the proper usage of the word “narf,” i.e. sparingly to the point of never.