December 16, 2011

Filthy Review - Water for Elephants

Water for Elephants (2011)

Review by Jude Felton

The thought of watching a movie set in the world of a 1930’s circus didn’t exactly grab me by the collar, demanding to be seen. Although, the thought of possibly having a bearded lady and a couple of little people did get my hopes up. Alas, the hirsute woman was nowhere to be seen, but the quota was filled in the short people department. All joking aside though I am always fairly open-minded when it comes to the movies I watch, so I thought I would give this a chance, and I am glad I did.

The story follows Jacob, played by Robert Pattison (and the irony of having him play a character named Jacob was not lost on me) of Twilight fame, who is the son of Polish immigrants and a veterinary student. Due to an unfortunate event he is left homeless and sets out to find his fortune in the City. Fortune, or misfortune depending on your point of view, finds him hitching a ride on a train that is owned by the Benzini Circus. Jacob is eager not to get thrown off the train by the circus’s owner August (Inglorious Bastards’ Christpher Waltz), so quickly makes a point of mentioning his veterinary background.

From here on in the story develops into the inevitable love triangle between Jacob, August and August’s wife, the circus’ star attraction Marlena (played by Reese Witherspoon), as well as August’s almost tyrannical control of the circus and its performers. And yes, there is an elephant, named Rose, who delivers probably the movies most impressive scenes, and some damned fine acting to boot.

The core of the story is something we have all seen many times before, yet Water for Elephants is never anything less than engaging. Witherspoon shines in her role, Pattison does what is required of him, but it is Waltz that steals the show in the acting department. He is captivating to watch and thoroughly convincing in his role. On the subject of the cast, genre fans should look out for Ken Foree as one of August’s heavies and a nice turn from Hal Holbrook who bookends the movie as an elderly Jacob, a la Saving Private Ryan.

Visually, director Francis Lawrence has managed to deliver a quite beautiful picture, bringing the world of the 1930’s to life quite vividly. The circus scenes in the big top are great to watch and even though this is a romantic drama there are one or two quite intense scenes that might surprise some viewers.

All in all though Water for Elephants was engaging movie and, even though it was predictable in places, sweeps the viewer along for the ride.

Water for Elephants is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment.

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