The Shape of Water—Best Picture?

By Nick Jones

The Academy Awards crowned The Shape of Water Best Picture earlier this month.  While Hollywood has praised this film, it has received mixed reviews around campus.

Critically acclaimed, the film was nominated for 13 different Oscar categories, and notably winning Best Director.  The popular website Rotten Tomatoes also rated the film favorably—92% of critics and 76% of the audience gave it a positive review.

But in the JPCatholic community, the feelings on The Shape of Water, fluctuate—like water itself.

“I really enjoyed it,” film student Nick Fraser stated. “I thought The Shape of Water was a unique, engaging product from a visionary director at the top of his craft, crafting a story that examines the essence of loneliness perfectly.”

Acting student Veronica Argentieri commented “It’s a romance story, but it’s so much more than that…the movie shows that what we need as an individual and unique human being may not be important to other people, but it doesn’t mean it’s not worth fighting for.”

“With so many excellent contenders, I’m disappointed that Shape of Water won [Best Picture],” said Chris Weingart, a directing major.  “I appreciate the filmmaking, which is masterful, but the stark sexuality really took me out of the whimsical fairy tale feel; just as I was being won over by the innocent romanticism, we’d get something aggressively sexual that just was not innocent or romantic to me. I had a hard time investing emotionally in the story because of this.”

Dale Davidson, a business professor at JPCatholic provided a unique perspective on the matter.  “Doug Jones, the actor who plays the Amphibian Man, is a good friend of mine.”  He added “I imagine that the students at JP Catholic are split on their views of The Shape of Water similarly to how filmgoers in general are divided in their opinions of this feature.”

The reviews suggest that The Shape of Water presents a message that conflicts filmgoers with a Catholic mindset.  Fraser argues this is a good thing.  “As a non-Catholic within this community, I think films like the Shape of Water challenge a Catholic viewer to expand their horizons and examine emotion and human nature from a many different perspectives, something that occasionally escapes a devout Catholic, in my opinion.”

Argentieri recognizes “[a] lot of Catholics I know did not like the film because it had themes that are not exactly ‘appropriate’,” but explains “some of the scenes can be raw and disturbing but without the harshness of the antagonist the story becomes weak.”