- Format: DVD Region 2 for the UK
- Number of Disc: 1
- Genre: Action & Adventure
- Starring: Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Octavia Spencer, Michael Stuhlbarg
- Studio: 20th Century Fox
- Release Date: 2018
What’s it about
Theater review. Possible spoilers. While watching this film in a sparsely populated multiplex theater, a few people began to walk out midway through the movie. I¡¯ve seen this before and I always find myself guessing why. I mean what were they expecting? My guess with this film is that it is a tale of fantasy. One involving romance with a humanoid-like creature but clearly not human. I¡¯m sure everyone knows of the numerous iterations of ¡°Beauty and the Beast¡± but don¡¯t get upset. Maybe the difference is that this film is pretty graphic, not only with the brutality of beast¡¯s captivity but of the bold sexual context.
Guillermo del Toro¡¯s beast this time is a South American river creature considered a god by the local population. The creature is played by Doug Jones and resembles another character created by del Toro and played by Jones in ¡°Hellboy II.¡± He has a dual lung composition which allows him to spend time out of water, but he prefers being in it. The web-handed (and footed) creature was captured by Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon in another great performance), an instrument of the U. S. government. It¡¯s 1962 and the military believes there may be some benefit to studying the creature and its potential powers.
The large facility where the creature is kept includes a cleaning crew. One of the cleaning ladies is Elisa Esposito (an Oscar-worthy performance by Sally Hawkins) who can hear but cannot speak due to some mysterious mishap many years earlier. Her best friend and fellow cleaner is Zelda Fuller (Octavia Spencer) provides plenty of dialog to offset Elisa¡¯s mute. Elisa, while not speaking still communicates fully using facial gestures and her own form of sign language. Michael Stuhlbarg plays Dr. Hoffstetler, the primary scientist responsible for studying the creature.
Sides are quickly set as Strickland who is a bully, a thug and a sexual predator throws his weight around using a cattle prod as his reinforcement. Hoffstetler, like most movie scientists is more interested in studying the creature not torturing him. He has other secrets that will come into play later. Elisa lives over a movie theater and her friend and neighbor is a gay man named Giles (Richard Jenkins) who like Elisa is love-starved and struggles to make ends meet as an artist for an advertising firm.
Elisa is curious more than anything about the captive creature and slowly begins to approach him when he¡¯s in his water tank, constrained around the neck. The fact that the two beings must communicate non-verbally makes it all seem to make sense. The creature, while not handsome by human sensibilities, has a certain character doesn¡¯t make him repulsive. Over time, the two become close. When it becomes clear the creature will be killed and dissected, Elisa and her friends chart a plan to free him.
Screenwriting chores are from del Toro and Vanessa Taylor. Del Toro has admitted he based the story on his love of the movie ¡°Creature from the Black Lagoon¡± which he first saw as a 6-year old. It¡¯s one of my favorite movies too. Certainly the resemblance between the creatures in the films differ primarily from the advanced costume designs of today. I was a bit puzzled by the amount of time Elisa had to keep the creature under wraps before freeing him back into the water. Under the circumstances it seemed odd, not to mention dangerous. Still, I guess it allows time for the unusual heightening of the romantic angle. There is another scene in the film which might make some people slap their forehead in bewilderment, but like the whole movie, just go with it. After all it¡¯s a fairy tale for grown-ups and a sensitive one at that. While del Toro¡¯s imagination is primarily responsible for it all, it is Hawkins who makes it work. Recommended¡for most people.