A corporate defence attorney takes on an environmental lawsuit against a chemical company that exposes a lengthy history of pollution.
This is the Rotten Tomatoes consensus on Dark waters: “Dark waters powerfully relays a real-life tale of infuriating malfeasance, honouring the victims and laying blame squarely at the feet of the perpetrators.” Sure, it is an incredible real-life tale; it does honour the countless victims and does blame the horribly guilty parties. But, geez, it was quite a dull ride.
Sure, a film such as Erin Brockovich is sensationalist – a bit cheesy, but it was a hoot to watch, and I am still referring to it 20 years on. I bet, five years from now, when faced with someone else’s Teflon pan and the evil legacy of the coating – the subject of Dark waters – I will be squinting and frowning, trying to recall even the name of this film.
Take The big short as another example. It also told a real-life tale, also honoured the victims and pointed out the guilty, and dealt with very serious subject matter to boot. It was a thrill ride from beginning to end, with larger-than-life characters and quirky interviews. It also broke down very complex information into totally understandable bits of information.
The miniseries Chernobyl was slow-paced and rather heavy, but riveting to watch, even though you knew what the outcome would be. You still hoped it wouldn’t be so. In other words, you can go various routes when telling a real-life tale: you can be funny, you can be serious, you can be quirky, if you are entertaining.
Perhaps this is not director Todd Haynes’s forte, the real-life tale told in a straightforward manner. The man has quite the Rotten Tomatoes CV. In between Far from heaven (2003) and Certain women (2016), there are quite a few fresh tomatoes thrown in. Let’s face it, the fact that he did not win an Oscar for Carol was an affront to mankind. I cannot quite explain what went wrong with Dark waters. I mean, even Mark Ruffalo was rather bland in this. And when was Anne Hathaway relegated to playing a teeny-weeny part as the boring wife? The only interesting character was Bill Camp as Wilbur Tennant, and he doesn’t feature a hell of a lot.
It is a fascinating story of corporate greed and environmental disaster. I did not feel the outrage.