In keeping with the recent trend of adapting romantic novels into movies, director Francis Lawrence’s new Film Water for Elephants opened this past Friday, April 22.
The movie stars Reese Witherspoon, Robert Pattinson and Cristoph Waltz in a romantic drama set against the backdrop of the Great Depression, which was originally a novel written by Sara Gruen.
The story revolves around Jacob Jankowski, (Pattinson) an aspiring veterinarian, ready to take his finals and get his degree from Cornell University.
However, tragedy strikes leaving the young man out of work, out of a home, and with no place to go. Like many people during the Great Depression, Jacob chose to ride the rails.
The train that he manages to hop aboard is a circus train, run by August Rosenbluth (Waltz) and his star act and wife, Marlena (Witherspoon). Jacob works his way up to being caretaker of the animals, including the new addition, an elephant. Along the way, he falls for Marlena, and the pair’s relationship wills its way through the struggles of an abusive husband, a terrible economy and a show that must go on.
Water for Elephants is not exactly an original movie. For anyone who has ever seen a movie adaptation of a Nicholas Sparks novel, you know exactly what to expect. With that said, Water for Elephants adds its own unique charm to an already crowded genre.
Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the movie was Robert Pattinson’s portrayal of Jacob Jankowski.
In the past, Robert Pattinson has often failed to do much besides looking good and delivering a few glimpses of legitimate acting potential.
In Water for Elephants, the actor finally hit a stride that allowed him to give a very consistent performance. Sure, he is still not going to win an Oscar, but his acting skills show notable improvement.
In a movie that really needed her to shine, Reese Witherspoon did just that. Her turn as Marlena Rosenbluth was rock-solid, and helped to make Marlena an incredibly endearing character. Witherspoon did not match some of her more spectacular performances, but she still provided the framework that made the movie work.
In a nice surprise, Christoph Waltz anchors the movie in his role as August Rosenbluth. The actor delivered an almost over-the-top performance that perfectly fit this film. He was angry, crazy and loud, but he brought depth to a character that was written very one-dimensionally.
What steals the show, however, is the star elephant, Rosie. Rosie and the other animals bring this circus tale to life, and their additions to the movie make it worth watching over other romantic dramas.
Water for Elephants is not going to set the world on fire or break any box office records, but it is a solid attempt at injecting life into a genre that has become stale and filled with imitations. The cast and the animals bring life to the story, but they can’t raise it to the next level.
The film grossed a little short of $20 million, leaving it at number three in the box office ranks during its opening weekend. The animated children’s movie Rio outshined it on its second week in theaters, and Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Big Happy Family came in at number two, grossing a total of a little over $25 million.
Water for Elephants is a surprisingly solid movie. It is not great, but it is not bad either. If you cannot find a place to take your date this upcoming weekend, there are certainly worse options than Water for Elephants.