Dark Waters (2019): WARNING: This Movie May Contain Man-Made Chemicals That Become Attached To You

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“Dark Waters” is directed by Todd Haynes (Carol, Velvet Goldmine) and stars Mark Ruffalo (Spotlight, The Avengers), Anne Hathaway (Interstellar, The Intern), Tim Robbins (The Shawshank Redemption, Mystic River), Bill Camp (Molly’s Game, Vice), Victor Garber (The Orville, The Flash), Mare Winningham (Grey’s Anatomy, Amber Waves), and Bill Pullman (Independence Day, The Equalizer). This film is based on true events, it’s inspired by particular news articles, most notably Nathaniel Rich’s New York Times Magazine piece, “The Man Who Became DuPont’s Worst Nightmare,” and is about a case involving the chemical company DuPont, who has been called out in the past for putting various dangerous man-made chemicals into products. Due to this, many deaths have occurred, some people have facial deformities, this movie basically focuses on some negative effects of the corporation. The movie dives deep towards the perspective of Robert Bilott, an attorney investigating the situation and its effects.

We are nearing the end of November, and with that in mind, it is perhaps without question that we as a moviegoing audience are being blessed with one god-like piece of material after another. Earlier this month I saw “Honey Boy,” an Amazon Original that made me argue whether or not Shia LeBeouf writes better than he acts. I soon saw “Ford v. Ferrari” which is one of the best racing movies I have ever seen. And the day before I saw this current movie that I’m talking about, I went to the cinema to go watch “Knives Out,” which is just pure fun. Enough said. It’s one of those movies that feels incredibly wild and it is all the better for it. Although unlike “Knives Out,” which I have been hearing about since some of the cast happened to be announced, I do not recall hearing much at all about “Dark Waters.” It’s one of those movies that just sneaked up on me. But I had a chance to go to a free screening on the day it opened in Boston, so I took advantage of that.

“Dark Waters,” on the surface, had a number of things going for it. It has a cool cast. Mark Ruffalo is pretty big right now, Anne Hathaway is one of my favorite actresses working today, and I should not go without mentioning Tim Robbins, who I did not know was in this movie until after I saw it, but he was in perhaps in 1994’s best film, “The Shawshank Redemption.” Let me just say something, this movie is no “Shawshank.” Not even close. I enjoyed it, but it’s no “Shawshank.” Part of why I feel this way is because of how much I tried to recall upon trying to write about this movie. Part of me almost forgot about a core element about the film and its screenplay in particular, which stood out to me when I saw it, but somehow it just slipped out of my mind almost as if this were a disposable comedy or something that I’ll watch once until I move onto the next thing.

But with that in mind, I still enjoyed what was in front of me. The story itself is one of those that I thought worked well for the big screen, even if it did take more than few moments to get me fully onboard. I think the performances given by multiple actors, leading and supporting, make this film watchable. I’d also say that it is an appropriate film for this time considering how it partially involves how big corporations are harming their consumers, plus to add onto that, the main message is about the environment and how we need to be aware of what we’re doing regarding it. Not only that, but we, the consumers, are not the only ones to blame for what’s being done. Will this film be forgotten over time? Hard to tell. It’s not the most popular film out right now, but at the moment, if a good number of people see it, it may reflect the current state of our environment to them.

I sort of mentioned this already, but the actors here do pretty well, and I think the two leads in particular, Mark Ruffalo and Anne Hathaway, have terrific chemistry and are extremely suitable for their roles. Mark Ruffalo plays an environmental lawyer who is trying to hold DuPont accountable and the movie managed to put me on his side, I also really enjoyed the moments where he was interacting with a farmer. That may have been one of the more hypnotizing scenes of the whole film.

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But if you ask me, the best performance in the film probably comes from Anne Hathaway, and this delights me to no end. Not just because I am a fan of Anne Hathaway, not just because she was in a few of my favorite movies ever, but also because she was just in a TERRIBLE movie this year called “Serenity,” which was a step down for her, and for a few others who were involved with that project as well. Now, Hathaway has bounced back with what I think may be one of my personal favorite performances from her. She plays the wife of the main character, and there are various scenes where she’s observing her husband doing things that might as well make him look bats*it crazy. Just about every execution of a line given by her was perfect.

I gotta say though, this movie has problems. It has been almost two weeks since I saw this in the theater, but even with that, this movie is a tad forgettable. I remember various portions of it, but it doesn’t feel like something that I’d salute for the rest of my life. I don’t know why, but this movie feels like a restaurant located in my town that I have only gone to once, liked, but because of competition, specifically in said town, there is a good chance I will not be returning anytime soon. The pacing was alright, but there is minor room for improvement. But I think the biggest flaw this movie has that I can think of is the ending. I say that because without going into spoiler territory, it feels incredibly abrupt. It’s not like the movie ends and it doesn’t make sense, but it ends leaving this weird taste in my mouth. I dunno… This is one of the weirdest movies I have seen this year. When I saw it, I enjoyed it thoroughly, but at the same time, I am having this weird spiral of memory loss when I try to think about it. For the record, I am twenty years old, not eighty. I think my memory itself is in rather good standing.

In the end, I do think “Dark Waters” is a really interesting, not to mention informative story. This movie I believe exists more to inform than to entertain, which is not necessarily a bad thing. I don’t know if they have ever done a documentary on this, but if not, I guess this is about the closest we’ll get to having a documentary. Hang on a sec… *Switches tab* WAIT! Just Googled it, there is a documentary. I take that statement back! I think the movie is well acted, well shot, the color grading kind of works for the film at hand, but I don’t think it’ll win best picture. Although this movie is from Participant, who made last year’s Best Picture, “Green Book,” so you never know. I should point out, it barely has a release whatsoever, so we’ll have to see how far this movie can expand before we make any further conclusions about box office, popularity, or overall potential to be recognized this award season. Until then, I’m going to give “Dark Waters” a 7/10.

Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for “A Beautiful Day In the Neighborhood,” a movie which at one point, may have been one of my most anticipated of 2019. Will it live up to the hype? You’ll have to find out for yourself! Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account if you want greater access to the site, and also check out the Scene Before Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Dark Waters?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite Anne Hathaway performance? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

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