#428: Water for Elephants

May 8, 2011

After his son forgets to visit him at the nursing home, ninety year old Jacob Jankowski (played by Hal Holbrook, Into The Wild) decides to go to the circus on the later time of the night. Two circus workers find him standing in front of the circus getting drenched in the rain and invites him to come inside. He then informs one of the co-workers named Charlie played by Paul Schneider (was also in Elizabethtown) his story of what it was like to be part of a one of the greatest shows on earth, the Benzini Brother’s Circus in 1931,who’s also intrigued by the how the famous Circus is also infamous for it’s disaster. The story then goes into a flashback to the Great Depression wherein a young Jacob Jankowski, played by Robert Pattinson (Twilight, How To Be, Little Ashes) a Cornell student back then studies to become a veterinarian and soon after taking his final exams learns that his parents dies in a fatal car crash. Jacob decides to leave school, saddened by the loss of his parents whom also leaves him with a huge debt and no house to live. After walking and walking, leaving his future to whatever awaits for him far away from his old home, he jumps into a moving train where he meets Camel and a group of sweaty men who offers him a job on the train.

The next morning he realizes he’s hitched a ride in the famous Benzini Brothers Circus train, after having breakfast he does unusual jobs like cleaning out horse poop and staring at the workers build the huge Circus tent. Yes, same as us, he too stares out in amazement (instead of helping out..) at how the huge tent is built. Same as any young man or woman who ventures out in a new world, Jacob is amazed at how this alternate universe begins, where everything is possible from flying trapezes and women breathing and blowing fire.

He then meets the show’s star, a white horse and a couple more horses being cared for by the showmaster’s wife Marlene (Witherspoon, who somewhat looks like Marlene Dietrich). He attempts to help her out with his knowledge on animals but she strays away, for fear that her husband might catch them perhaps.

The show’s showmaster August is played by Christoph Waltz (Inglorious Basterds, Green Lantern, and will later show in 2011’s Carnage) who yet again portrays a backstabbing, creepy evil villain who seems nice at first. Yes, I feel like a little girl afraid of a man who might’ve killed my parents in my dreams but seem like a very kind gentleman in real life whenever I see Christoph Waltz play his character. That seems to be the effect. But it’s fine, and it works in this film as well.

My several complains about this film does not include the fact that Robert Pattinson plays the part. For anyone who have not seen his earlier works (Little Ashes, How To Be, well his stint in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Remember Me, and a very funny but weirdly played role in Love and Distrust.), I tell you that he really is potentially good. This film lacks a bit of development between Jacob’s parents and him. We don’t get to see much of a family thing here, except for a few smiles and then kaput, they die from a car crash. I know, I know it’s so that we can get to the point straight away on how Jacob meets the love of his life in a time when everything was still being crafted as a pill for complications.

This Reese-Rob tag team works—- in five minutes. And then we remember they used to play as mother and son in “Vanity Fair”. Although they’re both great actors, you just somehow couldn’t put a finger on it. Even the Christoph-Reese battered couple, thank god they were placed in roles wherein they somehow hate each other. Otherwise, it might’ve been a solution for me to walk out of the theatre.

The interaction though with the animals were great and commendable. The feeling of being in a 1930’s circus is there, with the big close ups and wonderful costumes and stunts. The film is quite a visual to the eye, but I feel like I’d rather read the book.