Water for Elephants
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ACADEMY AWARD® Winners Reese Witherspoon* and Christoph Waltz** join Robert Pattinson (The Twilight Saga) for this epic tale of forbidden love based on Sara Gruen’s acclaimed best seller. Against all odds, a veterinary student (Pattinson) and a beautiful circus performer from a bygone era (Witherspoon), meet and fall in love through their shared compassion for a special elephant. But their secret romance incurs the wrath of her dangerously volatile husband (Waltz).
Sara Gruen's bestselling novel comes to glossy life in this period romance. A sparkle-free Robert Pattinson plays Jacob Jankowski, who studies veterinary medicine during the Great Depression. After a family tragedy, he loses everything, including the chance to graduate from prestigious Cornell, so he hops a train, where he finds himself part of the struggling Benzini Brothers Circus. Ringleader August (Christoph Waltz, echoing his Oscar-winning Inglourious Basterds performance) has doubts about the softhearted lad, but a fellow Pole smoothes the way, and Jacob becomes the company vet, which leads him to platinum-blond equestrian Marlena (Reese Witherspoon), August's wife. The two make eyes at each other, but an affair would surely end badly, so they concentrate on their work. When Marlena's prize steed falls ill, August purchases an elephant, hoping Rosie will turn their fortunes around, and enlists Jacob to train her. Unfortunately, she's slow to respond to commands until Jankowski unlocks her secret--and after August has beaten the poor thing into submission. After that, things start to look up until Jacob steals a kiss from his dream girl. As in The Notebook, the film it most closely resembles, an elderly version of the central character (Hal Holbrook, touching) narrates in the present day (screenwriter Richard LaGravenese also adapted The Bridges of Madison County). He tells an interesting tale, so it's too bad the leads strike so few sparks. For those who find big-top classics like Nightmare Alley too dark, however, Francis Lawrence's feel-better variant may be just the ticket. --Kathleen C. Fennessy
More From the Stars of Water for Elephants
Feature Performer Reese Witherspoon
The Traveling Show - Page to Screen
Audio Commentary with Director Francis Lawrence and Writer Richard LaGravenese
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Yes, you get to see some of the sadistic traits of August, but in watching the movie, you can kind of feel for the guy, too. It's not like he imagined his wife and Jacob's attraction. Marlena and Jacob were very obviously attracted to each other, and they were obvious about it. Marlena was flirtatious with Jacob. Their sexual attraction was there almost from the beginning. What man would be happy about his wife's flirtation with his employee and his employee's mutual attraction towards her? Sadistic though he was, I still could understand his anger at the situation. The situation actually gave some credibility to his anger...extreme though it was. His inability to express his feelings led to a lot of cat and mouse games between the characters. I didn't enjoy that. It lent an unnecessary darkness to this movie. The book was gritty and real, but not dark.
The movie wants to convince us that August is a sick, sub human being, and that's a lot of the focus of this movie, but it's wasn't firmly convincing, because of the way they chose to portray his wife's character and focus on her relationship with Jacob.
In the book, there was much more to Jacob's character than his interactions with August and Marlena. Marlena wasn't sending out mixed messages. Marlena wasn't a mixed up victim that needed to be saved by Jacob. She chose her life with August, had enough, and she just made a different choice for herself with Jacob, and you get it was her choice. In the book, Marlena was a stabilizer for August, until she had enough. Jacob was attracted to her from the start. Marlena was not. She came to know Jacob and then she came to love him. August was a sicko and there was no doubt about it. He was crazy way before Jacob came on the scene. You get this clearly. There is no conflict in the reader's emotions. His craziness was not jealously driven or really even directed towards Marlena, until he feared losing her. She was his savior, until she chose not to be. When August gets his due. You want to clap. In the book, you come to know and love Camel, Walter, Rosie, and you really get to know Jacob. You get a feel for the solidarity of the roustabouts and sub performers in the extremely hard working conditions, and the toughness of the people of that time period. You get a real feel of the class distinctions within circus life.
All that said, the movie is well acted. The average review is for the script, not the acting. This is not a true representation of the book at all. Water for Elephants is so much more than some damsel in distress love story, and her dark, creepy circus guy husband. If you like to read, get the book. You'll be drawn in and enjoy it. The books is so much richer.
WATER FOR ELEPHANTS can be an unnerving view for animal lovers. There is a great deal of animal abuse and even if it is simulated, it feels real. Of course, that is part of the story and life in a circus at the time was no joy for animals or humans. The story is dark and violent and follows a storyline seen in so many films. There is not much original about the film except for possibly the setting.
Lovely Reese Witherspoon looks as she has been airbrushed of all wrinkles. Her porcelain skin looks painted on and I wondered if this was an attempt to make her character appear much younger than Witherspoon's actual age. She's a beautiful lady so the unusually smooth skin looked impossibly odd.
Two highpoints are Rosie the aging but agile elephant and the venerable Hal Holbrook as the very aged Jacob telling his story to a young circus worker. Not a terrible movie but more disappointing than it should be.
The cast does a nice job; Reese Witherspoon displays great athletic prowess and she is a delight to watch.
The story's underlying tone of impending disaster provides a negative aura to this tale: it is worth watching to see how it plays out.
From a historic perspective, this film portrays the difficult life experienced by those in the circus world at that time.
I can easily see why another person would give this a 4-5 star rating.
I do not need to rehash the story line...lots of people have already done that.
Hal Holbrook was good. Kind of like the old man in the beginning of The Green Mile. He goes WAY back in his life and his love.
The kid was good.
Reese was very good...I think she is one of our better female actors of the modern age.
Christopher Waltz is awesome...but I guess he always is.
Steam Trains, Circus, Life on the road, True love, and True REVENGE all come home to roost in this movie.
If you do not like it...what can I say...you do not know a good thing when you see it :-)
This movie shows how fragile life is and how it can change for any of us in an instant but the key is to be resilient and learn to change with the situation. A well done movie but I admit I'm not a fan of elephants in circus or carnival settings so if you're like me it is tough to watch at times but don't skip it, it's a well done movie.
If you are a softy and like tearjerkers then have a box of tissue handy.