During the Great Depression, Jacob, a penniless and recently-orphaned veterinary school student, parlays his expertise with animals into a job with a second-rate traveling circus. He falls in love with Marlena, one of the show's star performers, but their romance is complicated by Marlena's husband, the charismatic but unbala...more
During the Great Depression, Jacob, a penniless and recently-orphaned veterinary school student, parlays his expertise with animals into a job with a second-rate traveling circus. He falls in love with Marlena, one of the show's star performers, but their romance is complicated by Marlena's husband, the charismatic but unbalanced circus boss. less
“A beautifully directed period romance film comprising some great performances & a superb background score. The only thing it lacks is Robert-Reese's chemistry.”
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It's quite a delight to find a movie affecting when least is expected from it. 'Water for Elephants' comes with the baggage of having Robert Pattinson in the lead who's acting skills seem to have been eclipsed by his posturing turn in the popular teen-vampire saga, 'Twilight'. Plus there is nothing in director Francis Lawrence's resume that suggests he'd be capable of handling a delicate, deep, old-fashioned and depression era love story. Going against preconceived notions, I found 'Water for Elephants' a moving and gentle romantic film that has been exquisitely crafted to connect with the audiences.
Based on the bestseller of the same name by Canadian-American author Sara Gruen, it is largely set during the great economic depression of the 1930s in America. The movie is told via flashbacks, narrated by an elderly Jacob Jankowski (Hal Halbrook). In 1931 a young Jacob (Robert Pattinson) is on his way to a successful career as a veterinary science major at Cornell University but the news of the sudden demise of his parents unhinges him. He decides to leave everything behind and walks in the wilderness only to hitchhike on a train of circus performers. When offered a job in the circus as their new veterinarian by the owner, August (Christoph Waltz) he more than happily accepts. August though charming in a certain manner is also near psychotic and no one knows this better than his pretty young wife, Marlena (Reese Witherspoon). Jacob rises to prominence when he saves the circus from near bankruptcy by unlocking the manner in which to get the circus's expensive new acquisition, an elephant, to perform tricks on demand. Marlena too finds comfort in Jacob which doesn't go unnoticed by her husband but being the jealous, impulsive cretin he is, August doesn't take it kindly; thus forming a tug of war between the three leads that also extends to the entire circus troupe and particularly Rosie the elephant.
Though the chemistry between the Pattinson & Witherspoon isn't the types to "sizzle", it never seems forced which allows the audience to accept it for whatever merits one finds in it. It is however the relationship that the tension forms between the three leads, that is handled almost perfectly. It's a barrage of emotions that rarely feels sappy or fake.
The art direction is phenomenal in terms of recreating the period and particularly the circus environs. Just watch the first time when the circus is setup to see what I mean. Another scene that stood out was the one atop the moving train when August & Jacob admire the passing landscape at night. The background score by James Newton-Howard reminded me of Thomas Newman's score from 'Road to Perdition' and that surely cant be a bad thing.
The only piece which didn't quite work for me was the ending, which I found a little too abrupt.
Christoph Waltz is in top form in a complex character that requires him to switch gears in a jiffy and he does so with effortless ease. Robert Pattinson is competent and so is Witherspoon; though it is odd to see the far more expressive Halbrook play an older Pattinson. The most commendable performer is Rosie the Elephant whose tricks nearly had me clapping in glee like a five year old.
Water for Elephants' is an enchanting little period romance film held together admirably by an amazing background score, wonderful and precise art direction and great performances from Christoph Waltz & the elephant; I'd say give the Oscar to the elephant.