I used to love M. Night Shyamalan’s movies. The Sixth Sense is a classic. Signs was solid. I even liked the polarizing The Lady in the Water. Somewhere along the way, however, all the joy went out of his films. Was it with The Happening? His writing got so heavy-handed and the twists so corny that I started to hate watching his movies. Hate watching, by the way, is the act of watching something for the pleasure of criticizing it. I hated Shyamalan’s last movie, Split, so much that I nearly left the theater, but I still felt a pull to go see his new feature, Glass.
In Glass, Shyamalan continues the comic book obsessed saga he has built in Unbreakable and Split. The story follows The Horde—an amalgamation of split personalities including The Beast, a violent human-animal combo (James McAvoy)—and vigilante would-be superhero David Dunn (Bruce Willis). Before the two get to faceoff, they are captured by Dr. Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson), who intends to treat them and evil genius Elijah Price a.k.a. Mr. Glass (Samuel L. Jackson) for their delusions of grandeur. Casey Cooke (Anya Taylor-Joy), who escaped from The Beast in Split; Elijah’s mother (Charlayne Woodard); and David’s son, Joseph (Spencer Treat Clark) also make appearances.
Did that synopsis feel a little light on plot points? So did the movie. At first, I actually thought I might end up liking this film. As the story opens with David and Joseph running an operation to keep his vigilantism protected from the cops, the film nearly has a film noir vibe. “Maybe M. Night should just always make movies with Bruce Willis,” I thought. You know who’s a great antidote for taking yourself too seriously? Bruce Willis. As in Split, James McAvoy’s performance as he cycles through many split personalities is impressive. Quickly, however, the movie takes a dive into meandering hyperbole.
The first sign that I was going to hate this movie was when I got distracted by the score. Ominous music thrums under seemingly every conversation. As a result, I kept waiting for some big reveal or foreshadowing when really the movie is just over scored. That detail clued me into how much Sarah Paulson was overacting. At first, her performance is wooden, but then her hyperbolic dialogue also felt flat because of the dramatic way in which she delivered it.
As Dr. Staple tries to convince her three patients that they are not superheroes, the film turns toward discourses on comic books, their fans, and the nature of their heroes. This could have all been very fun and clever. I like that idea in theory. Shyamalan, however, is so in love with stories and telling them that he cannot bear to tell you a great story and let you draw your own conclusions. He has to also analyze his own story for you, and he does so without even a little bit of a wink about how clever he is. The result is joyless, self-important, and pretentious.
And it could have been so much fun. There are some great moments in this movie. At one point, Sarah Paulson puts on her coat in a sweeping fashion that subtly evokes Batman swooping with his cape. In a truly gorgeous and heartbreaking scene, a young Elijah tries to use giant teddy bears as buffers so he can ride a tilt-a-whirl at the fair. Several times, Shyamalan uses fun camera tricks out of Hitchcock’s playbook. There’s good stuff there, but he tries too hard to drive home his point and it works against his creations. I rate Glass 2 of 5 stars.
Glass is rated PG-13 and runs 2 hours and 9 minutes. It features several scenes with flashing lights that may cause issues for people with epilepsy.
If you’re looking for something to binge watch, I recommend You the Lifetime-turned-Netflix series about a bookseller, Joe (Benn Badgley) who becomes obsessed with an aspiring writer, Beck (Elizabeth Lail) and begins stalking her, hoping to make her fall in love with him. Created by Greg Berlanti and Sera Gamble, the show has just one season so far, so you can easily watch it in a weekend (I did, at least). The show is pretty salacious, but it also has some fun characters including Joe’s young neighbor, Paco (Luca Padovan) and Beck’s best frenemy, Peach (Shay Mitchell).