Monday, December 26, 2011

Water for Elephants

The Sara Gruen best selling novel, "Water for Elephants", is remembered as being a beautifully written book with a great ending. Richard LaGravenese adapted the screenplay using his experience with romantic dramas. The dialogue provided by Richard LaGravenese adheres very much to the spirit of the book. The vision comes from Francis Lawrence, director, whose previous work was with music videos before the visually brilliant "Constantine" (2005) and "I am Legend" (2007). Francis Lawrence demonstrates tremendous attention to detail without the reliance on CGI or profanity.

"Water for Elephants" is set during the American depression, and centers around Jacob (Robert Pattinson), who finds himself working for a circus after he is unexpectedly orphaned. The story alternates between Jacob’s life in the circus, and Jacob as an old man (Hal Holbrook), recanting the story. Jacob joins the circus as the vet, working for the Benzini Brothers traveling circus ring leader, August (Christoph Waltz), who views the circus and its pieces as his "things" and demonstrates extremely violent tendencies towards his "things", including his beautiful and quiet wife Marlena (Reese Witherspoon). August is very possessive of Marlena and becomes suspicious of Jacob who finds himself falling in love with her.

The film is very similar to "Titanic" (1997) in the forbidden romantic relationship between Marlena and Jacob. The introduction to the film seems hard to believe as Jacob is only one exam away from his degree, but finds it necessary to run away. It becomes almost convenient in how Jacob sets-off on his journey, but it does come full circle with him "coming home" to the circus rather than him "running away". The performances from Christoph Waltz, Reese Witherspoon, and Robert Pattinson are well done. Christoph Waltz and Robert Pattinson play off each other in an interesting way, with the powerful performance from Waltz countering against the emotionally passive Pattinson. Of the three stars, Reese Witherspoon is surprisingly the least inspiring. The character of Marlena could have been given more complexity, but in the 1930s the subservient woman is to be expected. The rest of the human cast perform well, but are not memorable.

The animals are the most impressive performers in the film including the elephant Rosie and Queennie the Jack Russell terrier who also stole the show in "the Artist". The animal cruelty is difficult to watch, but to properly depict the culture of the traveling circus it is necessary.

While many will only see this film for the movie connection and others will view it for the teen sensation Robert Pattinson, it is the cinematography and performance from Christoph Waltz that makes this film worthy of viewing. Christoph Waltz outshines the beautiful Reese Witherspoon and heart throb Robert Pattinson, and combined with the cinematography contributes to the 4 Quacks rating.

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