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Water for Elephants

Water for Elephants is Such a Good Movie that Robert Pattinson Can’t Ruin it

I took two twelve year old girls to see Water for Elephants. They say it’s the best movie they’ve ever seen. To be fair they haven’t seen many movies and they thought Eclipse was a good movie, they are not to be trusted.

I read Water for Elephants and like most bibliophiles I seldom enjoy seeing a movie after having read the book. I wanted to see this because I knew that the backdrop of a prohibition era circus was bound to be visually arresting.

The movie did not fail in being a delight to the senses. The costumes, the makeup, the music and the sets were flawless. I felt like I’d been transported to another era. While many movies have arbitrary soundtracks, Water for Elephants had music that became a character.

Reese Witherspoon was Marlena. There isn’t much more to say about her role. There was never a moment where I watched her and thought she was an actor. She was completely believeable in her relationships with both Jacob Jankowski (Robert Pattinson) and with August (Cristoph Waltz ).

Cristoph Waltz plays August the circus owner with a borderline personality. His performance took my breath away. Waltz goes from love to confusion to fury and takes you on a fearful journey. At moments I felt compassion for him, but always he was the enemy of all things good.

Robert Pattinson was okay and mercifully didn’t speak too much. He’s very nice to look at and when he was interacting with the animals he was wonderful. Sadly when he interacted with Reese it felt a little like a high school play where the sweaty palmed sophomore is playing opposite the talented and beautiful senior. I felt badly for him, he was cast with the best of the best and there was no way he was going to end up looking good.

The good news is that the story is such an engaging one, the plot and the music, the scenery and the animals are so all encompassing that you don’t notice the flaws in the performances.

Practical tips.

I took two 12 year old girls to see it. I asked them if they could have enjoyed it a year ago and they had to think hard about it. These are media savvy 12 year olds too. They’ve been on dozens of TV and movie sets so they understand the pretend part of it better than most. They agree that it’s absolutely not for a 9 or 10 year old, but they can’t agree on if 11,12 and 13 are all ready for it.

Animals and people are abused and murdered, but the animal scenes are more disturbing.

None of the violence is gratuitous and the message is positive at the end of the movie.

There are sexy moments but there’s no sex. That Resse Witherspoon is pretty awesome.

Say what you will about Pattinson’s OhShitICan’tAct performance, but after a fight scene a fully packed theater of jaded moviegoers gave the show a round of applause, and then they hushed themself for a kissing scene that was acted so sweetly that everyone was afraid to breathe.

If the measure of a good movie is audience behaviour then Water for Elephants gets an A+. I cried when they asked me to, I cheered when it was planned, I felt tremendous anxiety when they took me on that road, and finally I felt duty bound to the old man who wanted to return to the circus.

There was an experience the writers wanted us to feel, and we felt it all, we felt it as a group, and we celebrated the triumph of Water for Elephants even though the movie never really addressed the fact that no one gets the water for elephants. You bring the elephants to the water, but only carnies and folks who’d read the book would know that.