Water For Elephants

Water For Elephants

Static Mass Rating: 4/5
20th Century Fox 

Release Date: May 4th, 2011
Certificate (UK): 12A
Running time: 120 mins

Director: Francis Lawrence
Screenplay: Richard LaGravenese

Robert Pattinson, Reese Witherspoon, Christoph Waltz

Official Movie Site

Trailer: (⇓)

When I was 10 years old there was circus in town, but unlike most kids I wasn’t so thrilled at the idea of watching performers and animals parade around. I thought it was for babies. It wasn’t until I was 18 years old and forced to take my younger nephew and nieces that I finally got to see what I was missing.

Inside that Big Top a new world came alive. Spotlights shone on trapeze artists who dangled from dizzying heights, twirled at frantic speeds and leapt with death defying stunts. Clowns bounced, honked and blew their trumpets, stepping on each other’s toes and the crowd roared with laughter and to my surprise, I did too.

Water For Elephants

Yet none of that compared to the majestic shows the animals were about to perform for us. This was the moment I fell in love with the dazzling world of the circus and the illusion it created of a time that never really existed.

Water For Elephants, directed by Richard LaGravenese and based on Sara Gruen’s novel of the same name, brings that world to life once more. The story is set in the Great Depression, where veterinary student Jacob Jankowski (Twilight star Robert Pattinson) drops his studies after his parents are killed in a road accident and joins The Benzini Brothers, a travelling circus with two main attractions: Marlena (Reese Witherspoon) and her horses.

Water For Elephants

When the star horse is put down, Marlena’s charismatic but twisted husband August (Christoph Waltz), who is also the circus boss, purchases Rosie, an elephant, as a replacement and something he hopes will save the struggling circus and bring in punters.

Jacob connects with Rosie in a way which surprises everyone. She responds to his commands and even takes to flirting with him. The same can be said for Marlena and this of course creates much of the tension between Jacob and August. The hardest scene to watch in the movie is when August gives Rosie a terrible and brutal beating after she almost injures Marlena, but his anger doesn’t stop there.

Water For Elephants

At its core, Water For Elephants is a love story, plain and simple, and is in stark contrast to Francis Lawrence’s previous movies Constantine (2005) and I Am Legend (2007) though it probably has more in common his music videos for Britney Spears, Circus (2008) and The Pussycat Dolls’ Buttons (2006).

While the two main leads, Robert Pattinson and Reese Witherspoon are beautiful to watch in this period setting, it’s Rosie who is the real star and the one everyone is smitten by, even August, in his own way. There is chemistry in the way she interacts with the Pattinson and performs with Witherspoon and her plight at the hands of a monster really nearly brought a tear to my eye.

With hints of HBO’s long lamented Carnivàle (2003-2005, 24 episodes), minus the mysticism and biblical overtones, Water For Elephants feels true to the time its set in, although I can’t be sure since I wasn’t around then. As hard times sweeps through the country, when there’s a show in town, it’s a chance for people to forget their cares and enter a world of magic and romance.

You might also be interested in these articles:

The Kid, directed by Nick Moran and set in the eighties, is definitely not a flawless film, but its slightly patchy editing and uneven script adds to it’s charm.

Starring Ryan Reynolds, Stephen Tobolowsky, Samantha Mathis and Robert Pattinson, Buried is set 6 feet underground and within the confines of a coffin.

Restrepo tells a story which is sometimes overlooked because it might make us disagree with the need for war, but still, these stories need to be told.

James Bond scorer and Grammy Award winning composer David Arnold joins us for an exclusive chat about his work on the latest Narnia movie; Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

Composer and musician Clint Mansell talks to us about the Black Swan soundtrack and what it’s been like re-inventing Tchaikovsky with a “punk rock attitude”.