Do you remember the heat I took for my bad script review of The Happening? I’m not naming names, but a writer (whom I still consider a friend) wrote, “Wow. I don't know what to say. I'm speechless. I feel so betrayed, so hurt. So pained. It's like my wife left me for my best friend. And his name is Mystery Man. It's like the President lied an no one does anything about it. It's like my dog would prefer to play with the cat rather than me. It's like...someone I respect is totally off base with Shyamalan with his totally ludicrous comments.”
And do you remember what I said?
“Hey look, if this film comes out and it's a gigantic hit and I'm completely wrong, then I'll certainly do something fun, like post a pic with egg dripping off my face or something.”
Yeah, that ain’t Happening. Those of us who study films and have a Sixth Sense about screenwriting could see the Signs a frickin’ year ago in this little Village we call Hollywood. Because M. Night Shyamalan, Mr. Unbreakable himself, had written yet another Lady in the Water.
Have you guys seen this movie?
I watched it last night with a (really brilliant) friend of mine who loves to rip apart bad films. He had a field day. He never stopped pointing out errors during the film in the theater. An hour after we left, he was STILL coming up with new errors. “DUDE… I’m FROM Pennsylvania, man… They don’t say ‘town OF Princeton.’ They just say ‘Princeton.’ How stupid is that? Who fucking SAYS that?” He’s the only reason I had fun. Luckily, we were also in a theater that served beer. It took me 4 big ones to get through 90 minutes of that shit.
Oh, look. Here’s Shyamalan still trying to figure out how it works:
* TOTAL SPOILERS *
The most shocking thing to me was the fact that the finished film was actually worse than The Green Effect script I reviewed last November. At least the ending to The Green Effect made sense! Because in the script, Elliot figured out the problem. The plants were like mood rings. When Elliot and Alma stepped out into the “open air,” they saved themselves because they knew they had to drum up as much good feelings for each other as they possibly could. Elliot proved himself to Alma by figuring all of this out. It was stupid, but it made sense.
Here, we’re not sure how they were saved except that they were over the hump of that peak period of toxin release. Are you kidding me? What they chose to do in the final version when they stepped out into the “open air” was not a moment of triumph for them because they figured out how to make it out of this alive, but instead, it’s a moment where they throw their hands up in defeat and choose to commit suicide together and take that little girl with them. But then they got lucky. Yeah, those are protags audiences can really get behind.
If I was that little girl, I'd ask for new parents.
My friend thought the freaky Eight Is Enough grandma-lady should’ve been the cause behind this whole crisis. By the way, grandma-lady slapped the shit out of that little girl and she didn’t even cry.
Only two words kept coming to mind as I watched this highfalutan cloud of nothingness linger in the air like a bad fart, and those two words were: STUNNING INEPTITUDE.
We do not believe one single moment of this film. Not one step, not one gesture, not one plot point, and not one single damn word of on-the-nose dialogue. Every little thing rang false. Either Shymalan’s internal shit detector needs new batteries or he was unwilling to do the hard work of getting it right before filming it. I’m guessing it’s both.
Shit detectors take double D batteries, don't they?
Plus, I love Zooey Deschanel. She’s a cutie! She could’ve shined in this film for us and Shyamalan! Yet, M. Night made her almost unbearable to be around. Her character never felt fleshed out. What did this girl want? We were never given a chance to see or understand why she was unhappy about that marriage. The stupid exposition from Leguizamo’s character about seeing her crying before the wedding was weak screenwriting. Kids, this is Screenwriting 101. Say it with me now: you gotta, what? SHOW, DON’T TELL. We won’t FEEL for the characters unless we experience WITH them their struggles and their pain. The only reason I cared to see those two reconcile was because Alma was played by Zooey Deschanel and I love to see her smile.
Smile again for me, Zooey.
God, I love your smiles. She sings, too, ya know.
Say, did you notice how Elliot and Alma reconciled in the bedroom the night before they reconciled AGAIN in those two rooms where they talked to each other? At the very least, they should’ve reached a breaking point in the bedroom and THEN reconciled the next day.
I wonder if she should’ve died.
My friend thought the acting was horrific. I disagree. The dialogue was SO poorly written, scenes badly staged, and conflicts pitifully melodramatic, that the best actors in the world could not save this. Hear my words – bad melodrama always begins on the page.
Remember the moment when the Jeep hit the tree? Can someone please – PLEASE – explain to me how, if John Leguizamo was sitting in the front seat, TWO PEOPLE managed to fly out of the windshield? Oh, and how did they also miss that big ass tree the Jeep crashed in to?
So we had in the opening scene two women sitting on a bench. They were both reading books. One woman tells the other that she lost her place. The other says something like “you were at that part where the killer shows up.” How the hell would she know this? Were they psychically reading along together? That's more amazing than toxins in the air! If I was in that scene, I would’ve done the same thing:
So Elliot gave his mood ring to that little girl. When did he take it back? A few scenes later, the ring was back on his hand! Hell, it wasn’t even HIS ring. It was his wife’s from their first date! That’s kind of rude, don’t you think, to take back the mood ring that isn't his that he gave to the little girl? No wonder Zooey was flirting with Joey over Tiramisu.
And what the hell did the colors on the ring mean?
And who the hell thinks to take along a mood ring when you have two minutes to pack before the end of the world?
So then the lady sitting next to Wahlberg in the diner says, “You’ve gotta see this” and she shows him a video of a man getting mauled by lions in a zoo. What was the point of that? Why would anyone need to share that over burgers and steaks in a diner?
If the toxins came from plants, how is it people in the CITY started dying first? Shouldn’t people in the COUNTRY be the first to go?
After seeing the shots of New York City, was anyone else confused about the fact that the scene afterwards with Wahlberg in the school was actually located in… Pennsylvania? Shyamalan used SUPERs to explain that we were in Central Park in New York City and then we were “three blocks over,” but he can’t tell us we’re in Pennsylvania?
Where was that train going? Does anyone know? Wouldn’t it be better to fly? You’d be safer with all that cabin pressure, right?
So Walhberg asked the conductor why they stopped the train. “Sir, we lost contact.” “With who?” “Everyone.” Oh. I would’ve said, “Uhh, doesn’t that mean we should go faster?” Here’s my friend: “DUDE… everything else is working, like TVs and radios, and you can’t even use a fucking cellphone? What the fuck, man? So WHAT if you can’t talk to your bosses or whatever. KEEP GOING, MAN, KEEP GOING!”
Was anyone terrified of the shots of wind blowing through trees?
So then they’re at the crossroads. By this point, they’ve figured out that the toxins must be coming from the plants. When Mark’s had enough and has to go someplace quiet to cry, where does he sit? AMONGST THE PLANTS. You don’t think, “Hey, Mark, look out, man! You’re sitting right next to the plants that are killing everyone!” No-no, instead, you think, “Hey, dumb ass, why the hell are you sitting next the plants?” Then, instead of driving down one of those roads to get away, what do they decide to do? RUN THROUGH THE FIELDS.
There was a recent article by Kim Newman in the Guardian film blog in which she actually defends the film: “Here's the thing: The Happening is not that bad.” Are you kidding me? She concludes: “Can it be a kind of racism that the Indian-born, Philadelphia-raised auteur is hammered for his apparent character (or funny name) rather more than, say, Quentin Tarantino or Spike Lee?” Emerson replied, “Wow, so the best the ‘horror scholar’ can muster on behalf of The Happening is that it's ‘not that bad’ -- and the hostile reaction to Shyamalan must have to do with the filmmaker's ‘funny name’ or his race? That's insulting. What about his Philadelphianism? Maybe that explains it.”
Jim, he couldn’t even get his Philadelphianisms right. “DUDE… I’m FROM Pennsylvania, man… They don’t say ‘town OF Princeton.’ They say ‘Princeton.’ How fucking stupid is that? Who SAYS that?”
Do you know what was missing? Zooey and a gun.