Director: Francis Lawrence
Cast: Reese Witherspoon, Robert Pattinson,
Christoph Waltz, James Frain, Paul Schneider, Hal Holbrook,
RunTime: 2 hrs 2mins
Released By: 20th Century Fox
Official Website: http://www.waterforelephants.com/
Opening Day: 5 May 2011
Synopsis: During the Great Depression, Jacob, a penniless 23-year-old veterinary school student, parlays his expertise with animals into a job with a second-rate traveling circus. He falls in love with Marlena, one of the show's star performers, but their romance is complicated by Marlena's husband, the charismatic but unbalanced circus boss.
you are not reading a review written by a Robert Pattinson
fan. But yes, this columnist gives credit where it is due.
And for the record, the man who has made the millions of girls
crazy with his soulless portrayal of a charming (but frighteningly
pale) vampire can actually deliver a decent performance.
At least that is what we can tell from this
film adaptation based on Sara Gruen’s 2006 novel of
the same name.
Here, Robert Pattinson discards the white
foundation and plays a young man who finds himself on a rickety
train after fate surprises him with an unkind twist of events.
The train is home to a circus troupe and the veterinary student
is put in charge of caring for the circus menagerie. He also
meets the charismatic but violent owner of the circus, and
his beautiful wife who happens to be the equestrian star of
the traveling shows. It is also on this journey he meets an
untrained elephant who will become the hope for the fading
If you ask us, the film does not do much
justice to the title of Gruen’s award winning historical
novel. Sure, we got the part about the elephants, but where’s
the significance of water in the film? We understand (without
having read the book) that water is a symbol of purification
and self worth, and is portrayed many times in the novel,
but we are guessing that director Francis Lawrence (I Am Legend,
Constantine) was more concerned about how to make this 122
minute production look beautiful on screen.
Cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto (Babel, Brokeback
Mountain) captures the splendour and magic of a bygone era
on his lens. With the story taking place in the 1930s, the
Great Depression never looked so good on film. With production
design, art direction and set decoration by Jack Fisk, David
Crank and Jim Erickson (the trio worked on 2007’s There
Will Be Blood), and a wondrous score composed by James Newton
Howard (The Last Airbender), it is evident that an elite team
has been gathered to ensure that production values are top
notch. The effort and talent from the production team is evident
in the mesmerising and skillfully created scenes. Be prepared
to be transported to a world of spectacle and adventure where
circus animals and acrobatic acts enthrall.
We don’t mean to point fingers, but
the problem does seem to lie with the somewhat unexciting
storyline where the character development is predictably dull,
and the story plays out in the most conventional way one can
imagine (cue a white haired old man reminiscing about his
glorious past). It may have helped if there was more chemistry
amongst the protagonists too – Pattinson and leading
lady Reese Witherspoon (Oscar winner for 2005’s Walk
the Line) seem to be playing it safe as the couple embarking
on a journey of forbidden love. The sparks between the two
are minimal and as good looking as they are individually,
the pairing just doesn’t seem to work.
Austria born actor Christoph Waltz (Oscar
winner for 2009’s Inglourious Basterds) takes on another
Hollywood role and manages to outshine his fellow cast members.
His portrayal as Witherspoon’s husband is charming and
brutal at the same time. The violent and abusive owner of
the circus is a paranoid schizophrenic, and Waltz effortlessly
portrays the role so well that audiences can fall in love
with his charisma one moment, and loathe his offensive behaviour
the fine performance by the multi award winning actor isn’t
enough to elevate the overstretched movie to a level of spectacle
a traveling circus show promises.
(The movie is pretty to look at, and Christoph Waltz delivers
yet another fine performance – but that’s about
Review by John Li