Directed by Francis Lawrence, “Water For Elephants” is based on a novel by Sara Gruen, with the screenplay written by Richard LaGravenese. The movie takes us on a journey of innocence; choices that have to be made and the pursuit of dreams when the best laid plans get off the planned path.
We follow Jacob (played by Robert Pattinson), a veterinary science college student who suddenly loses his parents, home and plans for the future. He joins up with a circus when he accidentally jumps a circus train looking for a ride. He meets August (Christoph Waltz) and soon discovers the star attraction, Marlena (Reese Witherspoon), August’s wife.
Set in 1931, at the height of depression, you get a glimpse of the strain August is under to keep his circus up and running for business. His sometimes-brutal way of dealing with the everyday business has most of the circus folk living in fear that they could be the next target of one of his tirades or the next to be cut out. At a time of scarce jobs and places to live, people put up with a lot.
Jacob, who comes from a good family; finds compassion not only for the animals but for his new-found circus family as well. As he and Marlena work together on an elephant act, true feelings start to grow — but not without August noticing and he isn’t ready to let his star attraction go.
Robert Pattinson does a wonderful job of playing Jacob. Although some people have the notion that his “Twilight” character is on the screen, you don’t see that. Jacob has the shy innocence of a young man who quickly comes to realize the world has changed and sometimes a brutal realization comes that one cannot stand by and let things happen. Reese Witherspoon is absolutely believable as a ’30s circus star; she carries an attitude of a star attraction but underneath it all, she is a vulnerable woman who responds to love and caring. I think it was a wonderful choice of casting to put Pattinson and Witherspoon together. They complement each other very well.
And as much as you don’t like the character of August, Christoph Waltz does an incredible job of being on top of the world one moment, before allowing the pressures of the financial ends of keeping and paying his circus family to turn his mood ugly the next. He has a brutal side to him and yet underneath he seems to want to be a likeable fellow.
I found myself smiling at points, almost crying for the characters at others and really not liking a few of the things the people had to go through. It was great to see Hal Holbrook in this film as well. Although his part is small, he does a great job where you can see just where the journey of life has taken Jacob.
The film is shot well, the shots of the tent raising were reminiscent of “The Greatest Show On Earth.” And pacing is never a problem; the movie flows nicely and, if anything, was over too quickly.
“Water For Elephants” is in theatres now.
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