I am just a little bit late on getting this review up on the site, but it has been a crazy few past weeks at the office. Better late than never, and hey, it is probably still playing at some of the theaters. So the movie is Water for Elephants. The stars are Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattinson. Yeah, in case you are wondering, it is not really my kind of movie, but I did go see it with my wife. And when I say it is not really my kind of movie, well, that is really saying if it were on during a Saturday afternoon while I was working on something else I might have it on as a background kind of thing. Enough of that, I will get on with the quick little review here. Do be careful, there may be a spoiler or two in the following, so read at your own risk.
First, for those that may not know it, the movie is based on a book. I have not read the book, but according to several friends it is a pretty good work. In fact, according to the friends that I have made my minor complaints about the movie too, I am assured that the book does not have the same problem. Given the high reviews of the book and my slight disappointment with the movie, I would suggest if you enjoy fiction that reading the novel is probably the better option.
The movie starts with an older man, clearly from a retirement home of some sort staying long after the circus has closed down and eventually have a conversation of his days with some old circus that had one good run in the 1930′s. This leads to the recalled version of events which is what the storyline is all about. Pattinson plays the younger man, who just as he about to take his exams for vet school finds out that his parents have been killed in an automobile accident. Fleeing his life, he ends up hopping a circus train and after some tense moments ends up befriending the owner of the circus and his wife and becomes the vet. The circus is struggling, the wife is the top billed act, and the owner is a harsh man to both animals and people.
During the days of things happening, Rosie, an elephant is acquired and turns out she listens to the native langue that Pattinson’s character speaks. He also is the elephant trainer, at least in name. During the string of what starts to be success, there are incidents that occur where the owner causes havoc by trying to ensure he has control of everything. During this, Pattison’s and Witherspoon’s character begin to become fairly close. Chaos ensues and the big top ends up coming down.
The old man the resumes the story, of how he went back and got his actual vet license, they were happily married, did the circus with Rosie until the kids got up in age. A feel good, mostly happy ending where the good guys and love actually prevail over the evil in the world. Though there were plenty of seemingly good guys lost along the way if you think about it very much at all.
Clearly I have a chip on my shoulder about the movie, right? You are, I am sure wonder just what it is. The guess might could be that I did not really think Pattinson did a good job with the role, but that would not be it. In fact, I think he probably does a better job with the movie that Witherspoon did. Honestly though, I do not think she did a bad job either, just a pretty average job for all the hype that the movie go ahead of time.
No, the real problem was that like of depth and passion, that spark of love between the two main characters. It is supposed to be the love of their respective lives, that leads to the happily ever after in the end of the movie. In reality, in most of the movie each of them seems to be doing the role, but when it comes to that love part of they seem to be only going through the motions.
Leave that part out of it, which I personally found a little hard to do, and it is a pretty good movie. Think about it. It is a historical setting which despite the gritty nature of the time, is one of my favorite times settings. Men were men and that kind of thing in that day. The costuming is pretty good and the idea of about the half the movie taking place on a train is of particular interest to me. Add to the fact the concept of the circus, or a show, recurring with the show of the movie and it is a near perfect setting.
I would give a worth seeing, but wait for the video from Netflix or get it on one of the cable channels in a few more weeks.
** – Image from movie promotional materials.