Things I Loved This Year: A Stupid Movie That Knows It’s Stupid

Each day this month (assuming I don’t get busy or bored!), I’ll reflect on a tiny sliver of pop culture that I enjoyed or appreciated this year — scenes, shots, gestures, verses, sights, sounds, moments. Today: The Shallows lives up to its name.

SHallows.jpg

There are many dumb things about The Shallows, a movie I enjoyed when I saw it and have recalled fondly in the months since. Why is Nancy, a medical doctor on leave while she grieves her mother’s death, so fixated on her own Instagram repertoire? Where is this secluded beach with wi-fi lightning-fast enough for crystal-clear FaceTime calls? What kind of monster friend begs off on a relaxing trip to the sun and sand because she’s too hungover, but then decides only a few minutes later to go meet the guy she slept with the night before during her drunken escapade? Does the movie really need to end on a sentimental denouement, scored to Sia? Oh, and back to the medical school thing — what about that character description screamed “Blake Lively”? Does any character description scream “Blake Lively”?

It doesn’t matter. All that matters is what happens on the water, which is often thrilling, thanks to adroit direction from Jaume Collet-Serra, who probably needs a polish on his interpersonal scenes but nails the dynamic between a bloodthirsty sea monster and the unsuspecting young woman who crosses its path. I didn’t feel much sympathy for Nancy in the scenes that establish who she is and why she’s there, but I felt for her when she was fending off a beast with only a trusty seagull at her side. And Lively, for all that she has to learn about how to hold oneself and deploy inflection when in conversation with another human being, gives very solid scared shrieks and forlorn glances.

This movie illuminates nothing about the human condition. But I had fun watching it, and the things I didn’t like about it are the kind of things I can forgive when a movie is trying very hard to entertain me, which The Shallows does. Effort pays off.

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