Media : Lady surfacing

The entrancing Bryce Dallas Howard takes another stroke toward stardom with M. Night Shyamalan’s strange new flick

Bryce Dallas Howard is a lucky girl. Not only did she win the genetic lottery when mega-director Ron Howard fathered her (in Dallas, hence the middle name), but she also grew into a fantastically talented, impossibly sculpted, flame-haired, ethereal beauty that makes every scene she’s in difficult to turn away from. That might be why so many of Hollywood’s biggest names are lining up to work with her, from Sam Raimi (2007’s Spider-Man 3), to Lars von Trier (this year’s Manderlay), and, of course, her sugar daddy, M. Night Shyamalan, who directed her not only in her debut, the lukewarm The Village, but also in this summer’s Lady in the Water.

I see mer-people: Bryce Dallas Howard plays the appropriately named Story in M. Night Shyamalan’s Lady in the Water.

Since you probably haven’t seen it yet, let’s just get one thing straight: Lady isn’t Splash 2. It’s not The Little Mermaid, either. It’s actually a creepy bedtime story run amok, about a mystical narf trying to return home - a narf, of course, being one of a race of sea nymphs who once lived in peace with and as sort of guides to mankind.


Then man got all stupid and violent and greedy and shit, and the divide between their world and ours became a little more difficult to cross. Howard’s mostly naked hottie, Story, is here to offer an epiphany to one lucky soul, an author whose work will change the future. Along the way, she falls into the hands of an apartment caretaker, Cleveland Heep (Paul Giamatti, in his first sorta-romantic lead), who must help her return to her world before he’s eaten by a grass-covered devil dog, or the grass-covered monkey-men who are out to exact some sort of justice.

Um, yeah. It’s a bit convoluted. Despite wonderful performances by Howard and Giamatti, it barely holds itself together, too. In fact, a few critics took to vocalizing their unhappiness during a recent LA screening. Of course, we can only hope these jackass whiners, who are most likely bitter, lonely, failed screenwriters, crash their cars into a telephone pole before they write another one of their soulless reviews that are secretly just ways to strike back at filmmakers whose craft-service budget on re-shoots is greater than the sum-total earnings from their last five years writing about film. Anyways, back on topic. We were talking about Bryce. Mmm, Bryce.

Howard hasn’t quite figured out how to play a leading lady in a big-budget flick yet, what with all the sound effects and loud scores, but with Story she has managed to finally embody the role. She’s growing, and it’s hard not to imagine that, following her turn as Gwen Stacy in Spider-Man 3, she’ll finally be ready for super-stardom. These things come in steps, though.

“In my real life, I don’t take any risks at all. Ever,” she says, bubbly and all smiles. “Like I haven’t had a drop of alcohol, because God forbid something happens while I’m slightly drunk. I’m literally that controlling; in a weird way, that fearful of consequences. But with my work, it’s different.”

That would explain the anatomy lesson provided by Howard’s Manderlay sex scene. Let’s just say there’s less-graphic childbirth footage out there.

“I’ve done four films, and I do feel like I’m starting to find my voice within the system of a movie,” she explains. “My own voice doesn’t include taking over the project or making demands of the director. I want to be there so I can be a vessel for his or her vision.

“As far as finding my voice on a set, that’s something I haven’t honestly put into practice yet, though. It’s something I kind of found near the end of Lady in the Water. I realized, Oh, this is where I don’t have to be respectful, this is where I can have a collaboration, this is where I can really push myself. I’m excited to put it into practice.”

With four films wrapped in three years and next year’s biggest hit filming right now (the Spidey flick, dumbo), it’s easy to understand why, when asked if acting serves as her alcohol, she immediately answers, “Absolutely. It can be a problem, too, because I do get addicted to it a little bit. My friends have sort of had an intervention where they said, ‘You know, you can have fun in life, too, ’cause I can be a bit of a workaholic.”

Maybe all that work will eventually give her a chance to collaborate with dear old dad.

“Oh my God, I would love to,” she insists, although the two have never really discussed the topic (according to Howard).

“Yesterday we went for a walk in the canyon,” she says. “I think I was complaining about something and I said, ‘You know, if I was on one of your sets, I would never complain.’ And he said, ‘I couldn’t work with an actress who rolled her eyes at me.’”

Scroll to read more Movie Reviews & News articles


Join SA Current Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.