Water for Elephants (2011)
Reviewed on 2012 January 30
My sister-in-law told me repeatedly what a wonderful flick this is, telling me I had to see it. I didn’t know much about it, except it appeared to be a romance set in the circus. I dragged my feet, because I’m not overly crazy about either of these things. She gently pushed, and I admitted that the circus never really interested me.
“Yeah, me either. Watch the movie.”
I did, and she was right.
A young vet student, Jacob Jankowski (Robert Pattinson successfully shaking off the Twilight glitter here), is orphaned during the Depression. Like many men in his situation, he hops onboard a train, not caring where he goes as long as he can earn a decent living. It turns out his train is a circus train, the mobile home for a lesser show. This second-rate act is headed by August (Christoph Waltz), a guy who’s kind of trigger-happy if you even mention those Ringling Brothers show-offs. Jacob uses this to his advantage, shrewdly mentioning that he’s a vet, and those Ringling wannabes don’t even have a dedicated circus vet. With that, August hires him.
August has a tired animal act, a bunch of goons who will enforce his rules, and a gorgeous wife, Marlena (Reese Witherspoon). August also has an abusive streak and an unstable personality. Combine that with his fondness for champagne, which he can get in quantity despite that pesky Prohibition, and that pretty much makes him a human Molotov cocktail and the whole situation ripe for a Demotivational poster. None of that can keep Jacob from falling in love with Marlena.
This was not a saccharine romance by any means. Neither did it beat the circus thing into the ground; that was just the setting and while it was less featured, the Depression was as much a factor in the story. This had some painfully sad parts in it, yet it was still a simple but strong story, and the acting from Pattinson, Waltz, and Witherspoon was very good. Pattinson did a a credible U.S. accent and spoke convincing Polish too, which impressed me. And it would take a hard heart not to fall in love with Rosie the elephant.
Three chocolate morsels. Have a Kleenex® ready.