When Water for Elephants came out in late April of 2011 I debated whether or not this would be a good film to see in theaters. Ultimately this was not a film I decided to see at the time. For some reason or another though the more I thought about the film the more I had a desire to see the feature. So when the film came out on DVD my chance finally came.
To be honest I was not expecting the feature to be as wonderful as the film happens to be. In fact, because of reviews I had read were so lukewarm I honestly was not expecting much from the film. The other reason I had determined I would not enjoy Robert Pattinson’s performance. The good news is that Twilight (2008) did not ruin him for me completely after all! I suppose one could say I’m not on Team Edward.
Regardless, after reading the not so great reviews and hearing less than stellar things about Remember Me (2010) as well, also starring Pattinson, the desire lessened almost entirely. While this should not have been the reason to judge this film before seeing it, I must confess I did just that. Then again, most people within society have those actors whose movies he or she avoids like the plague. This is normal, but Water for Elephants proved me wrong and I is beyond happy to admit such a thing.
Keep in mind, this film is based from the book of the same name. And while no comparisons can be made in that regard as of yet, at least not from me, Water for Elephants has a whole lot more than meets the eye to entertain someone.
The film exceeded my expectations and part of that reason is because of the plot. The film opens in such a way however that made me feel like I was in for another Moulin Rouge! (2001) venture that would leave me bawling by the end. Though that is nothing new the older I get, but not entirely the point here. At first we meet Old Jacob Jankoski (Hal Holbrook). We soon go into what I would consider to be a flashback, which in truth is the entire film. We meet Jacob as a young man, who is played by Pattinson. Audiences soon discover that he has abandoned his dreams of becoming a veterinarian, slight spoiler alert, after his parents are killed in a car accident.
In addition to losing his parents, he also realizes that he is left penniless and homeless to boot. Instead of going back to finish his exam, he finds himself hoping aboard a train passing through and joining the circus. At first it seems unclear if the man in charge, August (Christoph Waltz) is on board with him joining, but then Jankoski points out that he can offer his skills as a vet because he bets his competition has a vet on staff for all of its animals.
Soon Jacob realizes that everything he has heard about August from the various crew members are true. August has severe violent tendencies that no one can predict, including abusing his wife Marlena (Reese Witherspoon). While the various workers insist that Jacob not have a lot of contact with Marlena, he is soon put in a situation where he has no choice but to communicate with her on a daily basis. With August being the possessive man he is, he slowly begins to wonder if something is going on between Jacob and Marlena. Is his gut instinct right or is he making a mountain out of a molehill?
In addition to an amazing plot, Water for Elephants is full of magnificent performances. I will start with Robert Pattinson’s acting first. Pattinson truly held his own within the feature and provided an absolutely beautiful and graceful performance I had no idea he had in him in the first place. This is part of what makes the film even better. Despite the fact my expectations were not entirely high, Pattinson manages to take his role and run with it, blowing away any preconceived notions that one might have of him going into the film.
Secondly, there is the amazing Reese Witherspoon. She is absolutely fantastic within the feature. She adds an elegance to the film that it would otherwise not have without her. The best part of her character is also how she shows that one does has to stay in a bad situation. This will make more sense upon viewing the feature, but the fact is she is strong enough to become the woman she was destined to be in the first place makes her journey worth it.
Finally, there is the acting of Christoph Waltz. No matter what this man is in, he acts his ass off. There is no other actor I can see in that role and he has the ability to do such with each and every role he takes on. There is something insanely special about an actor who can do such a thing and I’m glad for one that Waltz is one of those rare actors.
As well as having a magnificent leading cast, the supporting cast is just as fantastic. Though there is a small amount of time that Holbrook is featured within the film he is absolutely amazing in the role as Old Jacob Jankowski. To me this was great casting on the film’s part as well in terms of how well Holbrook looks like an older version of Pattinson.
One of my favorite characters within the film is that of Kinko/Walter, who is played by Mark Povinelli. He brings a finesse to the role the most people do not expect at first. Maybe this is in part because his character starts out as a bit of an ass and audiences never see him coming around at all.
Finally, my favorite supporting actor goes to that of Jim Norton as Camel. Camel has a compassion that most others do not have for just about everyone in the entire film. And he is the only one who is willing to take Jacob under his wing. Plus, there are plenty of dialogue moments that makes Camel’s presence onscreen even more worthwhile. With an amazing supporting cast as well as a leading cast, Water for Elephants succeeds on many levels.
Overall, Water for Elephants is by far one of my favorite films I have had the pleasure to view in 2011. In fact, I would go as far to say that everyone should view this film at least twice. The first time merely to view the film and the second time to take more of the feature in that the person might have missed with the original viewing. I would also say an extra viewing is due because I expect the majority of people will adore it as much as I do.
Water for Elephants not only captures amazing characters on film, but what the time period was like for everyone once upon a time. The early parts of Depression was not good for anyone. Most people in today’s society will be able to relate because of the recession we have been in for what feels like forever and a decade at this point. My point is this is one of those rare films that can even pass off as great family entertainment. Yes, there are a few themes that come into play that are a bit more adult than most G and PG rated films, but that is what one’s first viewing can be for initially. View the film to see if this film is the right family film for your family.
In addition to being quality entertainment, Water for Elephants is smart entertainment. There are very few films that manage to capture both qualities these days, but truth be known that is what makes the film even better than most of the films this writer has view this year. Keep this in mind when making a decision on what to view next. Trust me, Water for Elephants will not be a film you will regret viewing.