‘Water For Elephants’ Movie Review

Movies
May 6, 2011

Bestselling book about big top love triangle comes to big screen

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Starring Reese Witherspoon, Robert Pattinson & Christoph Waltz
Directed by Francis Lawrence
Rated PG-13, 120 minutes
Release date April 22, 2011

Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattinson find adventure, danger and romance as part of a ragtag Depression-era circus in Water For Elephants, Hollywood's adaptation of the bestselling 2006 novel of the same name.

Witherspoon plays Marlena, a beautiful equestrienne whose radiant, sequined entrances atop a magnificent trained steed, the show's star attraction, make audiences swoon. Pattinson is Jacob, a young college student who hops aboard the circus train, quite literally, after the tragic death of his parents and the loss of his father's veterinary practice.

Christop Waltz, so memorable as a deliciously malicious Nazi in Inglorious Basterds, plays August, the circus ringmaster and Marlena's domineering husband. August can be a charmer, but he rules with an iron fist and treats people—and animals—with equally sadistic disdain. The air becomes charged with volatility whenever he's around.

The ensuing love triangle between the three main characters takes shape around an elephant named Rosie, which August acquires on the cheap after another struggling circus goes out of business. Rosie becomes the emotional bond that brings Marlena and Jacob together, and the eventual object of August's violent, raging jealousy.

The movie does a good job of capturing the circus atmosphere and immersing the viewer in its uniquely tempting world. We're introduced, on a walk through the clickity-clackity moving train cars, to the performers: clowns, acrobats, roustabouts, hoochie-coochie girls. We learn, alongside Jacob, about how things work on both the inside and the outside.

One particularly elegant, almost dreamlike scene captures Jacob's wide-eyed wonder after his first night on the train. As he wanders around in the golden glow of the morning sunshine, he marvels at the boxcars being unloaded, the tent stakes being pounded into the ground, the raising of the center pole—and the wondrous sight of the lovely Marlena.

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