A watery romance

Adapted from the best-selling novel by Sara Gruen,Water for Elephants, the movie is a Hollywood-style feel-good romantic love story set against the gritty background of 1930s circus life during the Depression in America.

Hollywood heart-throb actor, Robert Pattinson, is Jacob, the naive young veterinary student run-away,  who joins the circus run by Oscar winner, a dangerous Christoph Waltz as August and falls for his wife, Marlena played by Reese Witherspoon. and then there is the real circus performer, Rosie, the elephant, who almost upstages them all and a host of strange circus characters.

Director Frances Lawrence has used the backdrop of a travelling circus with the train a pivotal setting for the plot, written by screenwriter Richard La Gravenese. Pattison’s character, Jacob is the narrator, who tells her “You’re a beautiful woman who deserves a beautiful life’’. Yet, while succeeding in portaying himself as an animal lover, he fails in acting the heart-throb with Marlena. Christoph Waltz portrays August’s character to perfection – the charming circus owner yet the dangerous cruel husband the next, with his rubbery expressions deftly changing roles in an instant. Witherspoon captures the vulnerability and the dependence of  her character in the 30s, balancing it with a courage and tenderness for animals which endears her to the audience.

However, her portrayal of Marlena lacks the element of pure passion. That magic ingredient called “lust’’ is sadly missing from both Jacob and Marlena and so the movie fails to emit the passionate intensity needed to give Water for Elephants real integrity as a true epic film. Yet, the film still delivers an enjoyable, satisfying story presented in a rich, evocative manner.   It is well packaged with a talented elder actor, Hal Holbrook playing the 80-year-old Jacob to begin the story and round it off in a believable manner.

Some people will be upset by the cruelty to Rosie and the other circus animals, others will be annoyed that scriptwriters went soft on portraying the harsh reality of circus life in the 1930s.  But many – after the anticipation built up through the storyline – will be disappointed by the mediocre love-making scenes. It is a little shallow and fails to follow through with unpleasant consequences at several dramatic points of the storyline.

That leads us to the flashbacks at the end, which were pure Hollywood drivle and detracted from the movie-going experience. Yes, it is entertaining, but a little too shallow.


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1 Comment to “A watery romance”

  1. By Jan Smith, 11/07/2011 @ 9:36 am

    Your review is spot on, Nadine. We,too, felt the film lacked passion. In thinking about it the next day even wondered if the elephant,in most scenes, was ‘trick photography’ and not even a real elephant? Full marks, however, to your entertaining and informative website!

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