Movie Review: Water For Elephants

Posted: April 21, 2011 in movie reviews, movies
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Beautiful. Magical. Amazing. These are just a few of the words describe the movie, Water for Elephants.  From the set design, to the costumes, to the circus, to the animals, in the hands of Francis Lawrence, Sara Gruen’s book is really brought to life. And the result can only be described as stunningly gorgeous.

Water for Elephants

Starring: Reese Witherspoon, Robert Pattinson, Christoph Waltz, Hal Holbrook, Jim Norton, Mark Povinelli.

Premise: The majority of the Water for Elephants takes place in the early 1930’s, a time in Jacob Jankowski’s life when things are at the worst. His parents die during his final exams to Cornell and Jacob suddenly finds himself lost. On a whim, he hops a train, the Benzini Brothers Circus Train, and poses as a Cornell Graduate Veterinarian to impress August (played by a fantastic Christoph Waltz), the show runner of the circus. At first August is great. He’s friendly, he’s kind, and he’s gracious, but soon Jacob realizes August, is cruel, abusive, and over protective of his beautiful wife, Marlena (Reese Witherspoon). Marlena, Slowly, but surely, Marlena and Jacob fall for each other as well as their show “bull” Rosie (played the magnificent elephant named Tai), and they all find ways to escape August wrath and abuse.

My Review: I may be a bit biased, I admit it. Having been a part of the film, it’s hard not to be a bit protective of it. In my opinion, this film is thisclose to perfect.

I read the book before I saw the movie, but while the movie did leave interesting plot point out, I really felt it did the book justice. First of all, the movie really took you to the 1930’s with the costumes, and the set design. Everything had an delicate authentic quality to it. It felt precious. All of the circus scenes were completely amazing giving the movie the ability to suck you into it, encouraging you to drink up everything (the extras, the animals) with your eyes.

The acting was also pretty spectacular. I was concerned with the casting of Rob Pattinson, having only his work in Twilight to compare his talents to. (I am not a fan of the Twilight Series, don’t hate me.) But he was really good in this movie, I could see he was really pushing himself as an actor in this movie and his acting was quiet, but powerful. Reese Witherspoon, is just a goddess. Really in my book she can do no wrong. She was the best part of the not-good movie How Do You Know?. In Water for Elephants, Reese was exquisite. I found myself holding my breath whenever she did the tricks/stunts with Marlena’s horses or Rosie the elephant. She just has such an ease that you can’t help rooting for her. My only issue with her is that in no way could I ever believe Marlena was once a working class girl, who previously had a hard life. Who still has a hard life, Witherspoon’s, Marlena, was almost too perfect.

Christoph Waltz definitely had the most complex character and he played August so well. The character of August, both in the book and in the movie is completely awful and a bit psychotic. But Waltz managed to make August sometimes sympathetic. You could see why Marlena stayed with the man, which is important. However, during August’s possessive and obsessive rants, Waltz was mesmerizing. I couldn’t take my eyes off of him. There’s something about his voice and the way he speaks that just makes August so intimidating.

And the animals, they helped bring the film all together. My favorite animal of the movie was the baby giraffe Jacob meets at the beginning of the movie. (Fun fact: the giraffe’s name was Stanley. Ssh, don’t tell anyone). Tai (Rosie), was also very magical. Everyone has already heard so much about her in the interviews with Reese and Rob, but she really is an actor in the movie. She plays an essential part and its magical watching her work.

My biggest problem with the film was the pacing. At times I felt like the movie was slowing down almost to the point of being boring. It wasn’t necessarily boring. It was just slow and felt like momentum was coming to a screeching halt.  However, the set design and the surrounding supporting characters helped to keep my mind active during these times. I also wished we spent a bit more time with the other characters like Kinko and Camel and Barbara. Most of them didn’t get even enough screen time to warrant them as supporting cast.

The very ending of the show was sweet and adorable and the creative-like credits were really unique.

Overall, I enjoyed this movie a lot. It’s one I’d go see more than once. This show had so many cast and crew members who were nominated for Oscars, or won Oscars: Christoph Waltz (Winner), Reese Witherspoon (Winner), Hal Holbrook (Nominated), Rodrigo Prieto (DP, nominated), Jack Fisk (Winner, Production Designer), & Jackie West (Costume Designer, Nominated). It’s no wonder this movie turned out so great. Check it out, you’ll love it. And if you don’t, then there’s something wrong with you. Not Kidding!

Rating: 4 stars!


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