A farmer points downriver at a smattering of white stones glittering strangely from within its bed, nestled like skulls beneath those Dark Waters of the title -- little beacons of misplaced opulence, like pearls in mud, they speak of something wrong, something very wrong indeed. Something very wrong indeed has seeped into the ground, into the water, and rotted everything out from the tooth-side up in a small West Virginia Anytown USA; something that coats itself in the banal beige sheen of Corporate America, many-faced and glad-handed, tentacles prepped to slip down every crisp white sleeve sewn into existence.
The rot in Todd Haynes' beautifully-shot but haphazardly-executed takedown of poisonous malfeasance isn't satisfied with just chewing through its quarter-drawn townsfolk though -- it spills everywhere, an acid spill on the page, a script so see-through with holes I worry for its well-being. I'm calling 9-1-1 on this thing; it's coughing blood on my carpet. (Mad Cow POV... really?) How a screenplay this shoddy makes it to one of our greatest film-makers unmolested I can't fathom, but it's poisoned from the bottom up -- knee deep cliches sanded clean of substance. I could've drawn this movie's plot out in manure with a pitchfork beforehand and been better off. Haynes already made the premiere horror fable for our suffocating age with Safe, which had ten times this to say without ever saying a whit or a whisper of it this bluntly -- plainly, Dark Waters isn't fit to keep company with Safe, not by a long shot. Shun the newcomer, old friend! Shun it!
Don't get me started on the bromides so broad they knock half your cheek off when you lean closer -- at one point Anne Hathaway's Angry Wife asks her Work-Obsessed Husband Mark Ruffalo if she hasn't always been there, a supportive force in his life, and I guess we're supposed to be on her side at that moment but I very nearly stood up in the middle of my screening room and screamed, "No! No! No!" Up until that point Anne Hathaway's Angry Wife has only shown up in the film in order to make Work-Obsessed Husband Mark Ruffalo feel Guilty -- she's given up everything for you, Work-Obsessed Husband Mark Ruffalo! How dare y'all, how dare y'all, how dare y'all.
I certainly felt riled, intellectually and emotionally, by the real life tale buried beneath ten tons of Movie Shit here -- it's impossible not to want to wipe the smirk off of Victor Garber's smarmy but well-appointed face as the parade of drab-dressed and bedraggled cancer-yokels passes by, their tales of woe as thick as the muck on their cuffs and shoe-bottoms, as thick as their cornpone piggly-wiggly accents. The people must rise up, the people must toss the tar-haired corporate monsters into the acid pits of their own making -- these are indisputable facts worth their own weight in cinematic rah-rah-isms, no doubt. But give the people enough credit to see the signs themselves; that shit, it sparkles! You don't need to hold their faces down under the contaminated filth of Every Movie That Ever Came Before for them to get it; we all end up drowned, identifiable features scorched off, that direction.