The premiere of Guillermo del Toro’s “The Shape of Water,” was held last night at the Motion Picture Academy in Beverly Hills. In all my years of going there, I’ve never seen a rapturous reaction to any film. ever. And I agree. This whimsical, magical fairy tale is at its core a love story, with Del Toro’s signature fanboy sci fi touch.
Poignant and poetic heartbreaking and clever, this film has been a life’s passion for Del Toro and as he told me recently, “this film I’m exhaling with.” Visually it’s masterful. The actors are equally as transcendent. Sally Hawkins plays Eliza, a mute cleaning lady at a government lab in the Cold War era. There they house a top secret monster, aquaman of sorts, which she falls in love with and he her. Del Toro called Hawkins luminous last night as he introduced her and he’s right. Her performance grabs you from her first scene and never lets up.
Octavia Spencer as Hawkins’ best cleaning lady friend and Richard Jenkins (Del Toro dubbed him mystifying and delightful) as her closeted best friend are just wonderful. Octavia has her Oscar, Jenkins, long overdue for his, deserves the golden trophy for this funny and heartbreaking performance. Michael Shannon is menacing as the bad guy government agent and the always wonderful Michael Stuhlbarg as the Russian spy round out this perfect ensemble.
Jenkins told me that he didn’t really know how the film would turn out until he saw it recently. Stulhbarg added that this was all Del Toro’s delicate work, every detail had to be his vision, down to the colors of the scales on the monster. And it all shows in a glorious cinematic experience. Guillermo summed it up perfectly as told the crowd last night that “We live in a time where ideology divides us. This is a movie that speaks too the great love of the ‘other.’ This film is profoundly in love with love and cinema.”