A beautiful motion picture; 'framed in gold'. This film transports the viewer to a sepia coloured, extravagant, lush and melodramatic world, set within the menagerie of a circus struggling to survive during America's Great Depression. The former twilight star, Robert Pattinson's Polish character, Jacob Jankowski, recently orphaned and suddenly adrift, is led by a very benevolent fate as well as his compassionate nature, both to which he intuitively complies.
Director: Francis Lawrence
Screenplay: Richard LaGravanese, Sara Gruen (novel)
Producers: Kevin Halloran, Gil Netter, Erwin Stoff, Andrew R. Tennenbaum
Cinematographer: Rodrigo Prietoa
Score: James Newton Howard
Editor: Alan Edward Bell
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Starring: Robert Pattinson, Reese Witherspoon and Christoph Waltz
Running Time: 122 Minutes
Age Restriction: 13 V
The internationally acclaimed novel by Sara Gruen, was also titled Water for Elephants, and as the book, the film centres around the reminiscences of an old man, Jacob, and his experiences with a Depression-era circus where he witnessed the brutalities inflicted on people and animals alike. Although the film's popularity is mostly due to the cast and the film's genre as a lovely historical romance, a strong protest against animal cruelty in the past surfaces rather quickly within the story.
First off, the fact that the costumes and sets are gorgeous and the cast strikingly appropriate for their roles, immediately deems for the right dimension in which the film should be viewed. However this does not account for the film's patent and romantic stereotyping of a bygone era. This is as prominent within the screenplay as in the way the characters have been treated within their setting. The characters do have potential, but unfortunately they fail to live up to the promise. Their undelivered potential could be mistakingly substituted by the dynamic presence of the cast. Nevertheless the odd dialogue interchange between the trio of Robert Pattinson, Reese Witherspoon and Christoph Waltz quickly relieves one of their performances in former renowned roles.
A main theme of the film that is also manifested within the characters' interchanges, is the idea of reality vs. illusion, which is a noticeable subject in the concept of a circus. This concept also never fully develops and is left awkwardly unclosed. Fortunately, the directing allows the viewing experience to be not as dictated and settles for a more imaginatively didactic approach. Looking on the 'green' side, the opening of Water for Elephants provided a unique opportunity to tell people that the kind of cruelty, depicted in the movie as something of the past, still goes on in the way that animals are treated in unnatural habitats not as unlike as the presented circus.
Overall there is enough substance created within the romantic plot to allow the story to build a somewhat unique and memorable image, but only just. Although it might not be something to write home about, Water for Elephants is nevertheless an enjoyable and not at all hollow film, which in the end makes for a considerably good watch.