Reviewed by: Misty Wagner
|Featuring:||Reese Witherspoon … Marlena
Robert Pattinson … Jacob
Christoph Waltz … August
Paul Schneider … Charlie
Jim Norton … Camel
Hal Holbrook … Old Jacob
Mark Povinelli … Kinko/Walter
Richard Brake … Grady
Stephen Monroe Taylor … Wade
Ken Foree … Earl
Scott MacDonald … Blackie
James Frain … Rosie’s Caretaker
|Director:||Francis Lawrence—“I Am Legend,” “Constantine”|
|Producer:||3 Arts Entertainment
Crazy Horse Effects
|Distributor:||Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation|
“Life is the most spectacular show on Earth”
“Water for Elephants” is poetically beautiful in a way that is both vintage and esthetically pleasing. With creative camera shots and filters, filmmakers were able to give us an idea of what the Great Depression era of the American circus may have looked like. Magical acts and courageous animal trainers may have been the sort of thing that brought a gleam of hope to a child’s eye. For that one moment, as a tight rope walker dangled above the crowds and families below, maybe those struggling and hurting people weren’t thinking so much about how bad the state of economic things were. There are visually stunning moments where “Water for Elephants” is able to share the wonder and allure… Of course, this movie is more about what is happening behind the ringed acts and tent shows. It’s about the men and women who make the circus. It’s about their own weaknesses and struggles intensified by the time and the lack of money.
Jacob (Robert Pattinson) is the son of Polish immigrants. Having come from extreme poverty, the Great Depression does not seem to affect them. Owning their own home, they work hard to put Jacob through Cornell, so that he can become a veterinarian and go on to practice with his father. It is on the day that he is to finish his licensing exam and receive his certification, that tragedy strikes Jacob’s family, leaving him with nothing. In just an instant, he becomes one man, in a majority, out on his own, looking for work. It is this which leads him to decide to ride the rails, and it just so happens that the train he hops is the Benzini Brother’s circus train.
Once the ringmaster August (Christoph Waltz) learns that Jacob is a veterinarian, he is quick to bring him into his trusted circle. A friendship forms between the two, despite Jacob’s attraction to Marlena (Reese Witherspoon) who is August’s wife. Once Jacob sees August’s dark side though, things change for Jacob, and the course of his life is entirely altered, once again…
With it’s PG-13 rating, I want to strongly caution parents about taking their children to see this film. While there is much content that isn’t appropriate, the reality of the film is that it’s a window looking into a truly dark side. The content is incredibly heavy, dealing with issues such as animal abuse and cruelty, the buying and selling (and later disposing) of people, spousal abuse, murder, adultery, alcoholism and more. From the time Jacob is introduced, behind the scenes at the Benzini Brothers, until the very end, the viewer is exposed to such things. Granted, sometimes there are light-hearted and sweet moments, but you can still always feel the sadness there. Of course, it is this sadness which makes “Water for Elephants” an incredibly moving film.
The character of August is complex—not solely good guy, not solely bad guy. His struggles are human, and I appreciate that in a film.
There are a few strong characters, in the movie, who do stand up for what is right.
There is a scene where Jacob is taken into a peep show tent. Though no nudity is on screen, it is certainly implied.
There is some crude dialogue in a few different scenes, along with profanity.
There is one sex scene. Though there is no nudity, it’s a fairly intense scene.
There is quite a bit of violence, both where people and animals are concerned.
I did enjoy the film, despite it’s darkness. Though the intimacy between Jacob and Marlena is adultery, the details of their situation (domestic violence and abuse) is something that resonates with far too many. “Water for Elephants” weaves a relevant tale, even for today’s society, about kindness and love. Adapted from the novel, of the same title, by Sara Gruen, the film is an adequate adaptation.
Violence: Heavy / Profanity: Heavy / Sex/Nudity: Heavy