Sunday 4 September 2011

Today's Review: Water For Elephants

See, Robert Pattinson doesn't just star in tween love stories about vampires and stuff, he also stars in other kinds of love stories. Water For Elephants is a little bit more than just a love story though.

Pattinson plays Jacob, a Polish American man who is on the verge of finishing his veterinary degree when his parents are killed in an accident. Since they left huge debts, the bank forecloses on their home, leaving Jacob homeless and without much direction. so instead of finishing his studies he decides to go and jump onto a train. As it so happens the train belongs ot the Benzini Brothers circus, and the employees who discover him let him do odd jobs around the place as the circus travels along. Before long though, he is summoned to meet the ring master, August (Christoph Waltz), who orders Jacob to be thrown off the train until Jacob reveals is area of study.

Begrudgingly, August takes him on as the circus vet. While Jacob deals with a poorly horse, he meets August's wife, Marlena (Reese Witherspoon), a wonderful woman who seems quite at the mercy of her powerful husband. Naturally, Jacob begins to fall in love with her and realise that August is more and more of a dick, especially when he buys an elephant for the the troupe, and begins to abuse it when it doesn't do what it's told. Cue a dangerous liaison between Jacob and Marlena, that could end rather badly if August finds out about it.

As always, Waltz plays a fantastic bad guy. He switched almost instantaneously between charming and deadly, but at all times maintains a very menacing presence.  I wish the same could be said for the other two leads. Don't get me wrong, Pattinson has risen in my esteem, and Witherspoon carries on the good dramatic presence she established with Walk The Line, but the chemistry between them is just not that great. The actual scenes that show the development of their relationship aren't really too striking. You really do end up rooting for the couple, but this is mainly due to the fact that August is a guy you can really hate.

The movie itself is paced a bit strangely. While the beginning parts showing the life of the circus are certainly engrossing, the main dramatic parts of the film are kind of squished into the last half hour. It could well be that that's how the book also portrays it, but the start of the movie seems quite drawn out compared to the amount of things that are crammed into the final moments.

The look of the movie is stunning though. The circus itself looks awesome, and the animals and costumes dotted around really give off an authentic feeling. The animal stars do a fantastic job as well, especially the elephant. All in all Water For Elephants is a good movie. It could have been great if more emphasis was placed on the actual developing romance, but the setting and cast, especially Waltz, really drew me in and made me enjoy a movie I wasn't expecting to enjoy.

My rating: 4/5

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