Summary from Movie Website: Based on the acclaimed number-one bestseller by Sara Gruen, WATER FOR ELEPHANTS presents an epic tale of forbidden love in a magical place filled with adventure, wonder and great danger. A veterinary student from the wrong side of the tracks, Jacob, meets and falls in love with Marlena, a star performer in a circus of a bygone era. They discover beauty amidst the world of the Big Top, and come together through their compassion for a special elephant. Against all odds – including the wrath of Marlena's charismatic but dangerous husband August – Jacob saves Marlena from an unhappy life and they find lifelong love.
Disclaimer: 1) I have never read the book, and as much as I tell people "yeah, it's on my to-read list", it's not. But that will change. See my thoughts below. 2) Also, I'm a huge Twilight fan and adore Robert Pattinson. Just thought you should know.
My Review: Having never read the book, and seeing countless negative reviews of this film and it's lack of romance, I'm not sure what my expectations were. But I agreed to meet a few Twilight bloggers and friends of ours that are also huge Twilight fans on a Friday night. We took up most of a row.
Overall, the movie was spectacular and as one critic put it, "A Great Old Fashion Movie". It truly was.
Cinematically, the film was beautiful and I thought the director did an outstanding job of bringing the big top to life. Separately, I cannot help but think of the era, of the many books that depict this time in America, of my other favorite story that involves a circus; Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes. Circuses have a mystique about them and it's this charm, this magical hold that they have on us that sets the backdrop for a majority of the film. Between the actual sets; from the use of Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum #610 and former McCloud Railway No. 18, to the gorgeous Rosie the Elephant (Tai), the star of the film; to say my eyes did not feast on the sets and costumes on the big screen, is an understatement.
And acting wise, I was in heaven. I think the entire cast did a marvelous job but I must start by giving praise to Christoph Waltz whose character is both tragic, and hellish--but without his brilliant performance, would not lend contrast to Reese's and Rob's performances. Christoph Waltz plays August, the owner of the circus. He is married to Marlena, his star attraction, whom I might add appears visibly younger than August. His behavior at times is appalling and the physical and mental abuse that he bestows on his employees, animals and wife-- dangerously intensifies by the presence of Jacob, a stowaway, who later becomes the circus's on site vet. The dynamics between August and Jacob, and August and Marlena is strange, and at times, sick. August is an intimidating character, and only Christoph Waltz could bring such complexity to such a hated figure. (After all, he was spectacular in Inglorious Basterds!)
With respect to Reese Witherspoon, I must give her credit for the ability to play a lost soul; cold and purposely ignorant to her husband's wicked ways. Feeling as if there is no where to turn, she has but no choice to ignore the abuse. The biggest criticism from other reviewers has been the lack of romance between her character and Rob Pattinson's, Jacob. From my perspective, I don't agree. Considering the seriousness of the events that lead up to Marlena's decision to leave, I felt like there was just enough budding love for the amount of time in the film to tell the entire story. I appreciated the fact that the movie focused more on the abuse and effects of August's tyrannical behavior, than placing gratuitous scenes for the sake of giving Rob's fans some sexy time. I mean, don't get me wrong. It's not void of romance, it's just not brimming with it either. But what I'm saying is that I didn't feel like it was missing, regardless.
Which leads me to my next critique, Rob Pattinson. *Releases doves* He did an amazing job!! I was very impressed with his acting, and do I dare say, it was his best? Relax, I'm not starting Oscar buzz, though I have to admit I was high on soda that night and may have spouted something to the effect of "Rob should get an Oscar!" Whatever! He was fabulous. Not only was he still his hunky self, but more importantly, I bought it. He brought to life Jacob, and I believed every moment of it. His character's morality was tested, time and time again, and his unwavering loyalty to not only Rosie the Elephant, but to Marlena, whom he admired and cared for, and eventually... Hold on. A tear is starting to form. I'm telling you, his best performance yet. And I'll spare the ending for those who have not seen it yet.
For me, three things made this movie come to life; Christoph Waltz, Tai (her real name) the Elephant, and Rob Pattinson.
This was a beautiful story of sorrow, discovery, betrayal and love... And I adored it. I highly recommend seeing it in theatres and yes, I promise book people--I will read the book!!
For Tai, who has my heart.... I give five stars.
Cast and Credit:
Directed by Francis Lawrence
Hal Holbrook-Elderly Jacob