From the better part of my movie viewing experience I’ve learned that I do not particularly take to or like movies that start in the present day, and then go back decades to tell its primary story. Even though there are a rare few that I don’t mind, it’s not a storytelling tool I like. The use of it in this film is one that doesn’t sit well with me.
Water for Elephants (2011) Film Review
The future is bright for the newly graduated vet. Yet with the opening of a door, Jacob’s life changes in a single instant. A student with commitment, Jacob (Robert Pattinson) never imagines how his world may change on the morning of his test. Before he can complete his test, he learns that his parents die in a car accident. Without the means to have a future, Jacob sets out for places unknown, walking the rail line until the night that he lands right in the middle of the Benzini brother’s circus troupe.
It just takes one day for Jacob to see to the welfare of the animals. He soon catches the attention of the boss and ringmaster August Rosenbluth (Christoph Waltz). His stowaway doesn’t impress August until Jacob makes him an offer he cannot refuse; he convinces August to let him travel with the troupe as a vet. Life carries on quietly until Jacob meets the charming star attraction, Marlena (Reese Witherspoon).
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I think this is a movie that viewers are pretty split over. Based on Sara Gruen’s novel of the same name (trivia fact: this novel was originally written as a part of NaNoWriMo), I’m under the impression that the movie is less violent and graphic. I’ll say this Water for Elephants does have a few surprises. I wasn’t expecting much from it nor was I particularly in the mood to watch such a movie when I finally did rent it.
Despite my misgivings, the film does have a way of drawing you in. I cannot put my finger on what it has that most stories do not, but after watching this for less than thirty minutes, I “liked” the movie. For the most part, the story moves at a slower, careful pace yet it’s not boring. The detail and costumes are breathtaking, and I just love everything about the “look” of the production. Every hairstyle and costume looks very period authentic.
Unlike most viewers, nothing bothers me more, not its themes of extra-marital affairs (more on this later down the page) or its mistreatment of animals, as did the contempt some of the characters have for human life. I do not believe abuse in any form is right and while I disagree with animal abuse, it also doesn’t “affect” me as it does so many. Although some viewers feel that August loves Marlena, I do not. August’s ill use of not only his employees (especially Jacob) but also his wife is appalling. Jacob is drawn to Marlena early on in the film but she rarely speaks to him – at first. Eventually, this changes; she grows to appreciate his moral ethics and character.
As film productions go, this one is somewhere in the middle on my scale of “worst to best.” It does have a kind of engaging quality without being a truly great, epic story. The cast makes it entertaining if nothing else does. It has an academy-award winner and a teen heartthrob to boot. If you like this timeframe (depression era), then this may be worth a rental. It’s melancholy without really needing to be, and if I have to guess, I’d say the novel is much the same. Just know, you may question its ethics and morals.
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You can find Water for Elephants digitally on Amazon VideoReese Witherspoon stars in this 2011 adaptation with Christoph Waltz and Robert Pattinson. ‘Water for Elephants’: A Dark but Pretty Period Drama. #PeriodDrama #Movies #Romance #FWArchives Click To Tweet
CONTENT: the film is PG13 because of a clothed sexual scene with some bare leg and movement. There’s some profanity but I don’t recall anything more than h*ll or da*n. A lot of physical abuse is present including spousal [bruises, a slap across the face] and animal [this is more an implication]; several men receive severe beatings. One man nearly kills another; later, there’s a murder and someone tries to murder a woman. An animal is shot to death [impact off-screen] in order to end its suffering and another is glimpsed lying down with severe wounds. A lot of alcohol consumption is present during the film.