Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Water for Elephants (movie)

Water for Elephants
Directed by Francis Lawrence

Rated PG-13 for moments of intense violence and sexual content

My Rating: ★★★★★

I made sure to read Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants before the film adaptation was released because there is nothing I despise more than a movie absolutely ruining the book, especially before I am able to read it.  Last night, when I slipped out after the kids’ bedtime (leaving my husband home to man the fort, of course), I was thrilled to find that the big screen version did not disappoint! 

Jacob Jankowski (Robert Pattinson) is about to sit his final exams at Cornell University before becoming a licensed veterinarian.  When tragedy strikes his family, all his dreams are suddenly shattered.  Jacob is left orphaned and homeless with no one to turn to.  While walking to Albany, he comes upon a train and on a whim decides to jump into a passing rail car.  There he meets Camel (Jim Norton) who gets him work with the Benzini Brothers Circus, who he soon discovers owns the train he jumped.  Told from the elderly Jankowski’s (Hal Holbrook) memorable viewpoint, the colorful story of loss, friendship, self-discovery, and love completely enraptures the audience.

The cinematography in Water for Elephants is simply breathtaking.  The costumes and settings are colorful and striking and portray the depression era circus atmosphere impeccably.  The menagerie of animals was amazing much like the diversity of the many characters. 

Although I don’t think it was his best performance, Robert Pattinson was a great choice for the role of the young Jacob.  Reese Witherspoon, who plays Marlena, is beautiful and charming as always, but I didn’t think the chemistry between she and Pattinson was exactly dead-on.  Christoph Waltz’s portrayal of August, the bi-polar owner of the circus and Marlena’s husband, was nothing short of spectacular.  He gave the perfect amount of depth and intrigue to the highly complex role.  It could not have been cast any better!  My absolute FAVORITE character of the movie was Rosie the Elephant, played by Tai.   What a gorgeous and talented animal!

This version of Gruen’s beautifully written story did not stray far at all from the original.  All the changes that were made were minor and completely logical.  I missed having more of the elderly Jacob present much like Gruen writes in her novel, but it would have broken the film up in a way that most likely would have taken away from its poignancy and beauty. 

Fellas, don’t be fooled into believing this is a chick flick!

Water for Elephants was simply magical.  Please do not deny yourself this magnificent experience for any reason!