Water for Elephants

By Genevieve McBride

The future is bright with promise for Jacob, a Cornell veterinary sciences student, ready to graduate and follow in his father’s footsteps. But after a series of unfortunate events, Jacob finds himself a college dropout, homeless and penniless. He sets out to find work and stows away on a passing train which turns out to be the Benzini Brothers Circus train.

Jacob appeals to the vanity of the heartless circus owner and ringmaster, August, convincing him to keep him on as the circus veterinary doctor. One of his first patients is the horse of the circus’ star attraction, Marlena, who also happens to be August’s wife. When Marlena’s horse is replaced by an elephant, Jacob is made responsible for the elephant’s care and training. This gives Marlena and Jacob a common ally in Rosie, the elephant, and a common enemy in an increasingly violent August. Cue the furtive glances, the stilted conversations and awkward moments that signal the start of the mutual attraction between Marlena and Jacob.

While Jacob, Marlena and August form the romantic triangle that drives the story, it’s Rosie and the circus backdrop that provide the more entertaining aspects of the movie. Director Francis Lawrence (Constantine and I Am Legend) pays decent attention to period detail, highlighting the desperation and brutality of The Great Depression while romanticizing the ephemeral circus life and the subversive lifestyles enjoyed in defiance of The Prohibition. Sadly they were just quick peeks into a curious world.

Based on a best-selling novel of the same name by Sara Gruen, Water for Elephants is a sweet tale told in retrospect by a 90-something-year old Jacob, played by a wistful Hal Holbrook. Robert Pattinson plays young Jacob capably, and I have no doubt his fans will swoon at the many close ups of his brooding stare, pained grimaces and the occasional delighted smile. While this character gives him a few more lines than his more well-known role as Edward, the tortured vampire of the Twilight saga, it was difficult to watch him and not see the similarities in how he portrays Jacob and Edward. Reese Witherspoon’s Marlena was in turns adequately fragile and sufficiently steely. With negligible chemistry, Pattinson and Witherspoon’s performances paled in comparison to that of Christoph Waltz whose sadistic August was played with cunning zeal.

A carefully told story, Water for Elephants is however too carefully told, in a predictable, pedantic pace. However, fans of Pattinson will not be disappointed.

3 out of 5 stars

By Tracey Barrientos

Director Francis Lawrence brings the story of Sara Gruen’s best selling book Water For Elephants to the big screen. Starring one of today’s hottest young actors, Robert Pattinson who ironically plays the main character by the name of Jacob. Jacob hopes to follow in his fathers footsteps by attending Cornell University to become a vet. He is currently in the middle of taking his final exams when he finds out his parents were in a terrible accident and have both died. As a result of this and discovering his father was heavily in debt, he decides to drop out of school and leave his old life behind to look for work.

While walking along train tracks Jacob hops a train not knowing that it will lead him to an exciting yet dangerous new life. Finding himself aboard the Benzini Brothers circus train, Jacob is soon working with some very interesting characters. Camel (Jim Norton) helps Jacob find work by introducing him to the owner & ringleader August (Christoph Waltz). August is an abusive and controlling man who is married to the star attraction Marlena (Reese Witherspoon). Marlena soon becomes Jacob’s love interest as he becomes the circus’s vet and is able to work closely with Marlena and her horses. The circus starts to lose revenue, workers start to get “redlighted” (tossed off the moving train) because money is scarce. August decides to bring in a new attraction, and purchases an elephant by the name of Rosie to save the show. A love triangle forms between August, Marlena and Jacob and as August becomes paranoid that Marlena is falling in love with someone else and may leave him, he becomes very abusive towards the animals and people around him.

Water For Elephants is beautifully filmed in the Depression Era with wonderful cinematography and vibrant colors. This film is very well executed and although I have never read the book I am willing to bet that audiences around the globe will be very happy with the story and the characters who are portrayed by some great actors. As many of you know I am a huge fan of the Twilight Saga and to say that this Robert Pattinson film is my absolute favorite over the Twilight films is huge. Although I am not a very big fan of Reese Witherspoon, I am happy to say that her portrayal of Marlena was wonderfully done. I always find myself being afraid of Christoph Waltz’s characters and once again his portrayal of August did the same thing.

This film is absolutely amazing and is one of the best films I have seen this year. The film evoked sadness, love, fear and happiness, all emotions a good movie should draw from an audience. This movie is definitely one that should not be missed.

5 out of 5 stars