Dark Waters (Todd Haynes, 2019)

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knives
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Re: Dark Waters (Todd Haynes, 2019)

#26 Post by knives » Thu Sep 19, 2019 5:11 pm

I'm pretty sure he's been mainstream, if not publicly significant, for two decades. Far From Heaven was a major awards player and his subsequent films have all gotten at least some mainstream notice. He's not a lost Kuchar brother for heaven's sake.

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Re: Dark Waters (Todd Haynes, 2019)

#27 Post by mfunk9786 » Thu Sep 19, 2019 5:39 pm

ianthemovie wrote:
Thu Sep 19, 2019 5:01 pm
mfunk9786 wrote:
Thu Sep 19, 2019 4:44 pm
Where's an example of his being incapable of making a straightforward genre movie? Has he tried and failed at it in your view?
Sorry for unclear wording. I meant that Haynes has never seemed interested in making a straight-forward genre movie--i.e., doing so seems to be antithetical to his artistic sensibility. So either Dark Waters is either Haynes suddenly selling out/going mainstream (which seems unlikely and would be unfortunate), or else there is more to this seemingly by-the-numbers conspiracy thriller than meets the eye. Hoping it's the latter.
Well, I'm glad his choice to branch out is being received in such good faith - I'm sure he's kicking himself for not doing it sooner

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Re: Dark Waters (Todd Haynes, 2019)

#28 Post by senseabove » Wed Nov 13, 2019 1:10 pm

Apparently this was a bit of a pet project for Ruffalo, and he asked Haynes to direct, so now we know who to [CYOA: thank/blame/look quizzically at]

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Re: Dark Waters (Todd Haynes, 2019)

#29 Post by mfunk9786 » Wed Nov 13, 2019 1:41 pm

I can't wait to see this. Totally forgotten because people can't handle the idea of a "medicine" movie, but give me this as a late year award darling over some pap for adult children like Jojo Rabbit any day.

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hearthesilence
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Re: Dark Waters (Todd Haynes, 2019)

#30 Post by hearthesilence » Wed Nov 13, 2019 1:43 pm

senseabove wrote:
Wed Nov 13, 2019 1:10 pm
Apparently this was a bit of a pet project for Ruffalo, and he asked Haynes to direct, so now we know who to [CYOA: thank/blame/look quizzically at]
Yeah, I think others including myself guessed that when we saw Ruffalo was the lead actor and listed as an executive producer. Again, as everyone noted, it's an atypical project for Haynes, and it seemed reasonable to speculate that. I'm sure it'll be interesting though.

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Re: Dark Waters (Todd Haynes, 2019)

#31 Post by mfunk9786 » Wed Nov 13, 2019 1:50 pm

Surely the amount of times that actors have appealed to talented directors to make their pet projects is astronomical, the fact that Haynes accepted should be a marker of the film's quality, or at least its appeal - it's not like he owed Ruffalo money

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senseabove
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Re: Dark Waters (Todd Haynes, 2019)

#32 Post by senseabove » Wed Nov 13, 2019 2:02 pm

Let the record show I did not weight those CYOA choices by putting the link on "thank" or any other choice...

But whichever adventure I choose after seeing this—opening week, if I can find the time—I'll still be holding a grudge against Ruffalo for distracting Haynes from his Peggy Lee biopic.

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Re: Dark Waters (Todd Haynes, 2019)

#33 Post by hearthesilence » Wed Nov 13, 2019 2:06 pm

mfunk9786 wrote:
Wed Nov 13, 2019 1:50 pm
Surely the amount of times that actors have appealed to talented directors to make their pet projects is astronomical, the fact that Haynes accepted should be a marker of the film's quality, or at least its appeal - it's not like he owed Ruffalo money
Absolutely. It can work wonders too when actors coax a director beyond their interests or comfort zone (e.g. DeNiro pushing Scorsese to do Raging Bull and King of Comedy). I don't think Haynes would have ever pursued a film like this, so it'll be interesting to see what he does with it.

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Re: Dark Waters (Todd Haynes, 2019)

#34 Post by dadaistnun » Wed Nov 13, 2019 10:06 pm

This New Yorker profile of Haynes by John Lahr goes into this a bit. It’s a very interesting read.

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Re: Dark Waters (Todd Haynes, 2019)

#35 Post by Nasir007 » Wed Nov 13, 2019 10:14 pm

Now that some reviews are out - they are grappling with the same question that some here have pondered over - why would Haynes take up a project so uncharacteristic of him?

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Finch
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Re: Dark Waters (Todd Haynes, 2019)

#36 Post by Finch » Wed Nov 13, 2019 10:15 pm

First reactions are mixed/slightly positive: 2.5 out of 4 from Slant
the best parts of Dark Waters may make you wish that there was more of Haynes in it. The filmmaker hasn’t written one of his own projects since the outstanding Mildred Pierce miniseries, but whereas Carol and Wonderstruck at least continued the director’s thematic and aesthetic preoccupations in their investigation of outcasts searching for romantic and familial connections, Dark Waters feels relatively faceless. Aside from its color scheme, there isn’t much in the film that’s particularly or uniquely cinematic; this is a dramatic rather than a visual showcase, and one often confined to legal conversations in generic offices, meeting rooms, and courts of law. But perhaps it’s to Haynes’s credit that he lets the drama speak for itself, instead of feeling the need to embellish it.
a C grade from AV Club
Haynes has said that he took on this project out of genuine outrage, and that makes perfect sense—anyone of conscience would feel similarly. To say that it doesn’t play to his strengths, however, would be an understatement. The director’s formal intelligence makes a fleeting appearance during the film’s prologue, set in 1975; a group of kids goes skinny-dipping in the reservoir that we’ll later learn is contaminated by perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA, also known as C8), and shots of their car driving along a deserted backroad en route, and of their limbs splashing in the murky water, positively thrum with inchoate menace. That’s the man who made Safe. Everything that follows, however, looks utterly generic

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Re: Dark Waters (Todd Haynes, 2019)

#37 Post by Finch » Mon Nov 18, 2019 7:48 pm


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Re: Dark Waters (Todd Haynes, 2019)

#38 Post by Cremildo » Wed Nov 20, 2019 5:47 pm

Haynes talks with The Playlist about working with other people's scripts, navigating the studio system, and his love of whistleblower films.

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Re: Dark Waters (Todd Haynes, 2019)

#39 Post by mfunk9786 » Wed Nov 20, 2019 5:52 pm

Cremildo wrote:
Wed Nov 20, 2019 5:47 pm
and his love of whistleblower films.
Whew, the first few posts of this thread are an interesting artifact now that we're hearing form the man himself

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Re: Dark Waters (Todd Haynes, 2019)

#40 Post by Nasir007 » Thu Nov 21, 2019 11:51 am

Interesting interview.
To what extent is this a personal film?
I don’t know that this is a personal film

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Re: Dark Waters (Todd Haynes, 2019)

#41 Post by mfunk9786 » Thu Nov 21, 2019 12:17 pm

Nasir007 wrote:
Thu Nov 21, 2019 11:51 am
Interesting interview.
To what extent is this a personal film?
I don’t know that this is a personal film
Absolutely hilarious crop here. Please try harder to be incendiary, Nasir, you're falling short.

Anyway, here's the whole exchange:
There’s one shot that unlocked a lot for me, the one after Rob has his fainting spell, the hard cut to a zoom in on him in the MRI machine. Up to that point, I’d thought of the film as a story about the law, but that woke me up to the side of it that’s about deterioration of the body, probably the most typically Haynes-ian element of the movie. To what extent is this a personal film?

I don’t know that this is a personal film or an expansion on pet themes. But what you bring up, the corporeal and physical cost of a human being standing up and speaking truth to power and taking on corrupt systems of power — that was a driving force. The thing about some of these films more than others, and this is true of “Silkwood” more than others, is that you feel the strain that these bodies are under. People in the plant are getting affected by radiation, getting literally scrubbed down, and toward the end of the film, the contamination reaches Meryl Streep’s house with Cher and Kurt Russell. They start scrubbing the walls, peeling the wallpaper off, putting everything in plastic bags. The feeling of contamination, and how it estranges us from our own bodies, that’s a crushing thing. In this example, I can see how the illnesses, the rotting teeth, and the dead livestock all fit into that. It’s a terrifying peril.

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senseabove
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Re: Dark Waters (Todd Haynes, 2019)

#42 Post by senseabove » Thu Nov 21, 2019 1:22 pm

mfunk9786 wrote:
Wed Nov 20, 2019 5:52 pm
Whew, the first few posts of this thread are an interesting artifact now that we're hearing form the man himself
Not quite artifactual, given that the opening sentence is "There’s been an overtone of befuddlement to the reception for Todd Haynes’ latest picture..."—not the anticipation, mind you—and rest of the paragraph then goes on to pithily echo them. There is that following "but," and it's assuaging to hear Haynes talk about his admiration for procedurals and emphasis on the story's corporeality, but I also tend to prefer Haynes' movies when they're less "organized, coherent," not "mov[ing] in a linear way," which it sounds like he was concerned with here. So sure, there are things in the interview that get my hopes up, but also there are things that could affirm what has me trepidatious...

Lest that be misconstrued, I really am excited for a new Haynes—even if I didn't like his last one and even if reviews for this one have mostly been mixed to only vaguely positive. But it's not like I'm rooting for him to fail. If all goes as planned, I'll be seeing this at literally the first showing on the first day it's playing near me.

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Re: Dark Waters (Todd Haynes, 2019)

#43 Post by senseabove » Thu Nov 21, 2019 2:15 pm

Also, Haynes in the Slant interview before that:
Then, for some reason—and I genuinely say this with modesty—Mark thought of me for it, because I’m not exactly the person one would think of for this movie right off the bat...
So even Haynes himself agrees with those of us who are a little befuddled by the choice!

FWIW, the Slant interview does a better job of convincing me Haynes has an interesting angle here than the Playlist one...

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Re: Dark Waters (Todd Haynes, 2019)

#44 Post by mfunk9786 » Thu Nov 21, 2019 2:39 pm

It's one thing to be befuddled by the choice, but another (which is the only reason I was harping on it a bit) to act as though he didn't have a choice

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Re: Dark Waters (Todd Haynes, 2019)

#45 Post by senseabove » Wed Nov 27, 2019 2:55 am

It's... fine.

Up through the first big court case win I was thinking "wow, this is really good!" At that point I looked at my watch and realized we were only an hour in: uh oh. The script is uninspired at best and heavy-handed at worst, but Haynes manages, for a while, to goose it just right. The first half sucks you into Bilott's disbelieving, developing obsession, and Haynes gives to moments of a story and a framework that are abundantly familiar a wry self-awareness that makes them work—VHS tapes of gory tumors and organs shown in grainy, cropped close-up like B-movie evidence of Bigfoot, "I know I look crazy" destructive midnight madness—without being flippant about the subject and the real people it affected, several of whom the credits reveal to have had (sometimes awkward) cameos on the movie. It also has a transition montage of Ruffalo driving from Cincinatti—whose downtown skyline we see many, many times—to his grandmother's house in small-town West Virginia set to John Denver's "Take Me Home, Country Roads," and a pivotal "putting 2+2 together" moment that hinges on (no, really) an I Spy... book. Which... yeah... I can't decide if those are Haynes pushing some of the script's earnestness so far it becomes a little campy for his core audience or just evidence of a burnished made-for-TV quality to the script. The second half turns into a message movie—"We have to keep *beat* fighting"—that, however noble and true it may be, becomes just as much of a slog as I was afraid it would, as evidenced by the chorus of progressively-more-vigorous foot-tappers around me in the ~90% full, ~60 seat theater. It's a dramatization of what would normally be the "after these events" pre-credits cards, and really it's just hard to make years of corporate stonewalling, extended scientific studies, and protracted legal battles dramatically interesting. "This is one of the largest epidemiological studies in human history, so, uh, it takes a while..." is a fascinating fact, but not exactly a fascinating plot point. The script tries to fill that time with the Personal Events you'd expect in the story of a dogged, years-long legal pursuit—personal negligence, familial resentment—but Haynes can't really save the script at that point, and I'm doubtful anyone could... So for those of us who are Haynes fans, it's worth seeing what he can do with this kind of a script, but I'm doubtful this will garner him many new fans, and I'm hoping for more familiar terrain in his next movie.

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Re: Dark Waters (Todd Haynes, 2019)

#46 Post by Brian C » Sun Dec 01, 2019 9:00 pm

I had roughly the same reaction as senseabove. It's a reasonably engaging film for what it is, but it's essentially a clone of Steven Zaillian's A Civil Action from back in the day. Like with that film, there's a vague sense of condescension underlining the whole thing, because, let's be honest ... who really gives a shit about the lawyers? Bill Camp's farmer is a much more interesting character here, and the stuff that happens actually happens to him (among a multitude of others). Instead we get the usual about the lawyer's obsession and the toll it takes on him and how it causes his wife to demonstrate a range of concerned looks, blah blah blah. Oh, the plight of the white-collar hero - sure, maybe he didn't lose his livelihood and maybe his whole family didn't get cancer, but do you realize how many extra hours he worked?

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Re: Dark Waters (Todd Haynes, 2019)

#47 Post by tehthomas » Sun Dec 15, 2019 10:13 pm

I watched "A Civil Action" about 20 years ago so I don't remember it enough... but "Dark Waters", of course with Ruffalo in tow, to me plays like a somewhat less riveting "Spotlight" (and of course, there is a Ruffalo "THEY KNEW!" scene)... but it's still executed incredibly well and kept me engaged. Sadly, it doesn't really give off those 70s "Parallax View" paranoid Pakula vibes that Haynes noted as an influence. Photography is excellent however. Tim Robbins is wonderful and there is an excellent "speech" in the second half.

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Re: Dark Waters (Todd Haynes, 2019)

#48 Post by flyonthewall2983 » Tue Jan 26, 2021 5:42 am

I had to rewind Robbins' scene and watch it again. I know he hasn't exactly faded away or anything, but I hadn't seen him in anything since his cameo in War of the Worlds, and from that same year a fine performance in Isabel Coixet's The Secret Life of Words. It could very well be nostalgia for all those films he did in the 90's that helped me define my tastes, but the very second he takes control of that meeting my attention jolted and I was awed by the performance.

I'll admit this is the first Haynes I've seen so I can't judge it as such against the rest of his work, but I thought it was okay. Ruffalo in these kinds of roles is an instant positive to me, even if it is repetitive of past work. I doubt it bears repeat viewing, but I didn't feel it to be a waste of time either. Compared to most everyone else here, I live close enough to that part of America to be somewhat sympathetic to the plight of people like Bill Camp's character (scene-chewery aside). The real disappointment is Anne Hathaway's character, the token wife frustrated with her husband's work (even has the throwaway line about law being a cruel, unpredictable mistress).

I can't not write this without pointing to the obvious fact that there is a lot of prescience here to the pandemic, and perhaps the parallels between the lackadaisical manner in which the previous administration prioritized it, with the way the DuPont company did in terms of taking as little to no responsibility for what happened. I'd point to a more obvious parallel in HBO's Chernobyl for that otherwise, but the depiction of corporate malfeasance here rings a little more true in light of recent events than maybe we'd even care to think about.

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Re: Dark Waters (Todd Haynes, 2019)

#49 Post by hearthesilence » Tue Jan 26, 2021 4:55 pm

It's easy to understand why Ruffalo would be so passionate about the film. It's a compelling story and to its credit, the film generally sticks to it. There are embellishments, but they're generally minor - I'm guessing they were added to give specific scenes a dramatic push, otherwise much of this film would be too expository. There's only one moment that I found controversial:
SpoilerShow
When Ruffalo throws out their Teflon pans in the middle of the night. To be fair, the reaction could have an element of truth - only people inside the company would know about that specific carcinogen, and someone who just stumbled upon its identity and source could easily panic in that way since they're still learning about it. Also, anyone overheating Teflon pans would be releasing trace amounts of the carcinogen in question. But those levels are so low that it may not be a real concern. It's the massive amounts involved in manufacturing that's a problem, and the improper disposal was shockingly and outrageously negligent and flat out immoral.
Again, I'm sure they had good reason to dramatize the scene in question. I'm guessing in real life, they eventually pulled out the right documents, read them and thought "holy shit" before making some long phone calls, which on its own doesn't sound like engaging drama. On the other hand, to be brutally honest, the route they took was conventional and uninspired - if Hitchcock or one of his screenwriters worked with this, it's almost certain they'd come up with something far more gripping and engaging. That's the main fault I have with the film overall - it got the job done, it held my interest, but it never transcended the meat-and-potatoes nature of most procedurals. What makes procedurals reliably entertaining is also very constricting, but it's possible to do a lot more with them and great filmmakers have made truly great films out of them - Zodiac, Anatomy of a Murder, etc.

I can't deny it's a great story, albeit for very shitty reasons. It really pisses me off that this is still the corporate American culture we're living under, and the last four years have been especially worse - after sleazy, immoral men like Scott Pruitt and Andrew Wheeler were handed the EPA, they rammed through approval of dangerous chemicals and practices all in the name of sheer corporate greed with absolutely no regard for public health. I wish the film was a bigger hit, because this is exactly the type of thing people SHOULD care about. These communities paid an enormous price in human life, and it's infuriating that hasn't sparked bigger change, especially when the same states voted in a way that has made these scenarios more likely to happen.
Last edited by hearthesilence on Tue Jan 26, 2021 5:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Dark Waters (Todd Haynes, 2019)

#50 Post by DarkImbecile » Tue Jan 26, 2021 4:59 pm

You should definitely see Safe, flyonthewall2983, both because it's very good (though Carol is his best) and for the thematic echoes in Dark Waters.

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