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April 29, 2011 > Movie Review: Water for Elephants

Movie Review: Water for Elephants

By Jennifer Gau

"Water for Elephants" could be an option for a history in film class as an example of the Great Depression. It presents a dismal episode of U.S. history, and the emotional challenges people faced during that time. Jacob (Robert Pattinson) is too devastated to continue veterinary school after his parents are killed in a car accident; job prospects are non-existent. So Jacob decides to peregrinate and see where the railroad tracks take him. He finds himself taking a job as the veterinarian of Benzini Bros, a travelling circus, and meeting beautiful Marlena (Reese Witherspoon). Directed by Francis Lawrence, "Water for Elephants" is a magical tale of forbidden love and the tumultuous life of the circus.

This movie deviates a bit from the original book written by Sara Gruen. Circumstances and storyline change slightly, but the movie still makes sense to someone who has not read the book. Moreover, someone who has read the book can relate to the writers' vision for each scene - the magnificent grandeur of Rosie, the elephant, and the fire behind Marlena's eyes.

The love story in "Water for Elephants" feels similar to "Titanic" (1997). The biggest difference is that Pattinson and Witherspoon do not have the spark of DiCaprio and Winslet. Jacob and Marlena's relationship could develop more, but instead feels choppy. The wrinkle in their relationship stems from the presence of her psychotic husband, August (Christoph Waltz). Waltz (Inglourious Basterds, 2009) delivers intensity and illustrates the problems of a ringmaster in 1931; pressure to sell enough tickets to keep the show running, and to be the best show on earth. August is a prime example of someone trapped in a job that is not a good fit for him. Waltz successfully draws the audience into understanding his position and personality deficiencies.

Overall, the acting is decent, and costumes well fitted. Some scenes are difficult to watch for the treatment of animals. We can only hope that certain facts are fiction, but a part of us knows that people can surprise us when pushed to their limits. In the end, the story is too predictable and does not offer much to ponder.

Runtime: 2 hour 2 minutes
Rated: PG-13

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