The Circus is a fascinating world. And sadly, there aren’t too many circus related movies these days, with the last being Tim Burton’s “Big Fish”. “Water For Elephants” is based on a best selling novel by Sara Gruen. I’ve never read the book, but the way the people talk about it with passion and affection, one would expect that a big screen adaptation can find a way to translate those feelings. But let’s be frank here: even good translations of popular books tend to fall short (at least in the eyes of the readers). “Water For Elephants” is by no means a bad movie. It’s clever, well cast, and beautifully shot. But at the same time, it lacks emotional depth. When it ended, I took nothing away with me, except admiration for Christoph Waltz (“Inglourious Basterds”), and the circus world. Robert Pattinson plays a young ex-veterinary student in the 30’s named Jacob (which is kind of ironic if you’re familiar with his “Twilight” character) who dropped out of school when his parents were killed. With no money to survive, he hops on a train and meets up with a travelling circus run by a smart, but cruel ringmaster August (Waltz). Jacob impresses him with his education and knowledge, and is immediately given a job as the circus vet. He then meets the beautiful star of the show, Marlena (Reese Witherspoon), who also happens to be August’s wife. And despite warnings that her husband is highly possessive and insane, Jacob does his best to fit in, and fight his feelings towards the woman he desires. And here’s where I thought the romance failed with the pairing of both Witherspoon and Pattinson. One is clearly older than the other, and it made it hard for me to believe that they can be more than just co-workers. Yet we are forced to accept them as lovers, and eventually do. And while I’m not a huge fan of Pattinson, the dude gives it his best here, and it shows.
The best thing one could say about “Water For Elephants” is the fact that it’s easy to lose yourself in this world, as I did at first. Cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto captures the magic of a bygone era in style, and it’s hard not to admire the beautiful sets, costumes, and the wonderful score by James Newton Howard. But as the story moved along, I felt more and more detached from it. It isn’t the actor’s fault, as they give it their best, but rather the unexciting storyline and the absence of emotions. I guess I was looking for a deeper experience, or something much more memorable for that matter, so you can understand why I felt somehow disappointed the minute it was over.
Categories: The Twenty-First Century