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Review: Water For Elephants

Based on Sara Gruen's novel of the same name, Water For Elephants follows young veterarinary student Jacob Jankowski (Robert Pattinson), who after becoming orphaned and homeless stumbles upon work at one of the foremost travelling circuses. There he meets and falls for star attraction Marlena (Reese Witherspoon), much to the anger of her temperamental husband Ringmaster, August (Christoph Waltz). 

This is a nostalgic romantic melodrama, which genuinely feels like it could have been lifted straight from Hollywood's Golden Age. People say 'they don't make them like they used to' but films like Water For Elephants proves this is not the case - it may not be as grand as Cecil B. DeMille's The Greatest Show on Earth, but it does certainly give it a run for it's money. Francis Lawrence is no DeMille either, but this does not stop him giving us an emotionally stirring and visually impressive direction. The construction (and destruction) of the Benzini Brother's circus is presented to us in such a way that I had the urge to go the circus. Although, I'm unlikely to experience this romantic nostalgic feel at a 21st Century circus... Lawrence has a knack for the grand spectacle scenes of the circus and generally does well with the more emotional character driven scenes. Water For Elephants also features a strong message about the horrors of animal cruelty, presenting it in a graphic and striking light - we should be well aware that this message is still incredibly relevant as seen from the horrific treatment of Anne, Britain's last circus elephant.

Despite the powerful emotional message on animal cruelty, the death of Jacob's parents is handled in quite a passive nonchalant way that I struggled to find emotionally connecting. The film also, although mentioning the Great Depression quite frequently, rarely explores the harsh realities of the time. Which to be fair seems understandable, if covered in great detail it may detract from the 'magic of the circus' - so here's the beautiful Reese Witherspoon riding an elephant to keep your mind of that...

Although, I will admit I am not a huge fan of the Twilight saga, I cannot deny that Robert Pattinson gives a relatively strong performance in this, showing a varied range - although coming of as slightly awkward in certain scenes with Reese Witherspoon. Although she really looks the part - giving of vibes of a starlet of Classic Hollywood in her white dress with striking blonde hair - I struggled to accept Witherspoon in the role, although though she is quite captivating in certain scenes. This may be simply because a lot of the time she is  acting against the  masterful talents of Cristoph Waltz, who commands the screen - completely sealing his status as one of the finest character actors working in Hollywood. Whether romantically seducing his wife or beating the crap out of Rosie the elephant, Waltz is consistently mesmerizing. Unfortunately, every effort is made to justify August's behavior which takes quite a lot away from fun idea of the character simply being evil for his own enjoyment. Unfortunately, August also suffers one of the most cringeworthy fates in cinema history, which I shan't divulge - it has to be seen to be appreciated to its full ridiculous value. The film is also opened and closed by wonderful American character actor, Hal Holbrook, it's quite a touching performance that really gives a rounded feel to the film.

Water For Elephants is an entertaining romantic melodrama - Francis Lawrence's elegant direction gives the film a wonderful nostalgic feel whilst capturing the magic of the circus. Although the film varies on emotional impact, Pattinson and Witherspoon are generally capable leads but Cristoph Waltz provides the most enthralling performance.

Water For Elephants 1158959813586553698

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