Generally I want to start the review with a bit more poetic nuances but in this case I’d like to open with the fact that I love learning about something new when watching a film or television. Therefore Dark Waters had really satisfying storytelling to me, taking us through a lawyer’s case about corporate greed, environmentalism and responsibility. Directed by Todd Haynes and based on The New York Times article written by Nathaniel Rich, it hits the usual beats of a legal film but does it with more efficiency than many counterparts.
The basic story of the film is definitely its strong suit which means that the ”entertainment” part lies heavily on how dumb or smart you tell it to your audience. It’s very thorough at points when there is a need for it and skips to the engaging conversations between characters when there is a longing for that. Very rarely does it let you off its grip so those rare instances don’t really drag the overall journey down all that much. There are great supporting performances to be found here, Victor Garber ( Phil Donnelly) and Bill Camp (Wilbur Tennant) are both menacingly good in their two very different roles. More solid work is provided by the casting director, Mark Ruffalo (Robert Bilott) as the main star and Edward Lachman as the cinematographer.
There are quite a few relationship and family scenes sprinkled in here, where Bilott’s wife Sarah (Anne Hathaway), three kids and his grandmother are introduced. Hathaway misses the mark couple of times since we never get to know the relationships and personalities so she is seemingly written into a corner. Even after the credits start rolling, we barely know Robert Bilott himself which makes the family scenes seem like they were slapped on as an afterthought. The events of Dark Waters happen in more than 15 years but it’s a bit hard to tell from watching as everything looks pretty much the same which makes you think if the makeup and costume department had enough guidance here.
Smileys: Story, Bill Camp, Victor Garber, handling of the material
Frowneys: Writing of the family aspect, makeup, Anne Hathaway
Good thing that there are enough boats for most of us to enjoy ourselves above the water.