Country: United States
Genre: Drama/ Romance
Director: Francis Lawrence
TRASH CINEMA RECOMMENDED MOVIE
In some ways, Water For Elephants is a very old-fashioned movie, much like it’s subject.
It’s a story about human beings, with no real subtext, and no explicit violence or special effects to distract the audience, and that’s okay.
It’s the middle of the Great Depression and young Jacob (Robert Pattinson), who hasn’t quite finished veterinary school, is on his own in life. He hops a freight, which by a lucky chance of fate, happens to be the circus train of the Benzini Circus.
Now, at this point, we’re used to streamlined mega-entertainments like Cirque De Soleil, but we’re talking about an old-fashioned circus here, the type with clowns and lions. The circus train makes stops in towns along the tracks, takes the tents and animals off the train, and sets up shop.
The headmaster of this circus is August (Christoph Waltz), an autocrat with a screw loose. His wife is Marlena (Reese Witherspoon), who is also the headliner.
The only thing that prevents Jacob from being thrown off the train is the fact that he’s a vet (or nearly so). But Jacob is young and foolish, and it’s only natural that he’ll be attracted to the beautiful Marlena.
We’ve been told from the outset that the Benzini Circus went belly up in a great disaster about a year after Jacob joined, so it’s a good bet that Water For Elephants won’t have a happy ending.
It’s an interesting thing about Water For Elephants. The direction, writing, performances, and story (based on novel by Sara Gruen) are nothing special, but the movie ends up being pleasant and diverting enough anyway, if almost instantly forgettable. What makes it all work is the setting.
Many of us are too young to have ever been to an old-fashioned traveling circus. Water For Elephants, thanks to the excellent art design of David Crank and the luminous cinematography of Rodrigo Prieto, acts as a sort of time machine, taking us on a tour of a world which is now extinct. It’s a world not without it’s troubles (credit screenwriter Richard LaGravenese with not overdoing the nostalgia), but with an undeniable charm.
Water For Elephants isn’t going to knock anyone out, but it’s a pleasant enough way to spend a couple of hours.