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Water for Elephants

May 18, 2011
By Laurence Boyce

Water for Elephants

Director: Francis Lawrence

“Water for Elephants” is primarily a vehicle for Robert Pattinson (cue lots of “Twilight” fans fainting with delight and the “Twilight” haters groaning loudly) to show that he can do more than be a moody vampire. In that respect he succeeds admirably as he does really well. At playing a moody vet.

As young Jacob Jankowski prepares to take his final veterinary exam in 1931, he’s informed that his parents have been killed in a car crash. With his life shattered he finds himself hopping on a train unconcerned as to its destination. He soon discovers that he’s on a train belonging to the Benzini Brothers, led by the charismatic August (Christoph Waltz). After a shaky beginning, Jacob gradually learns more about the complex lives of those in a traveling circus as his veterinary skills become increasingly useful. But – as he looks after the animals – he also finds himself falling for the beautiful Marlena (Reese Witherspoon) who also happens to be August’s wife. It becomes clear that – beneath the charm - August rules his band of travelers with an iron fist and insane temperament. Will Marlena and Jacob find that the circus is not always as fun as it is made out to be?

The film is certainly striking to look at with cinematographer Rodrigo Pietro creating some fine contrasts between the glamour of the circus and the general shabbiness of Depression-era America. But the story is hackneyed with plenty of exposition (hmm, let’s mention prohibition and then explain what it is for all the stupid audience) and a lack of chemistry between Pattinson and Witherspoon. However, Waltz is typically excellent and – even in a role which is broadly pantomime – manages to add some depth to August.

Still, Pattinson takes his shirt off which should convince loads of teenagers to flock to the cinema as they eagerly await the next film in the “Twilight” franchise.

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