“Water for Elephants” watered down

So in flying back from a trip from Paris, France, I happened upon the Water for Elephants film starring Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattinson. It was something to help pass the time of a long-haul flight and in the end, that’s all it turned out to be – a time waster.

Let’s start with the basic premise of the film. Robert Pattinson is Jacob Jankowski, a Depression-era veterinary student at Cornell University. When his parents are suddenly killed in a car accident, Jacob, out of money and his family home turned over to the bank, runs off and joins the circus. There he meets the lovely Marlena, as potrayed by Reese Witherspoon, a woman who works with trained animals in the circus and the star attraction. Marlena is married to the circus owner, the sometimes violent August.

The story has potential and the Depression-era setting is sadly romantic, however I am sure this is a case of the book being better. There seems to be many things left out of the film that it’s hard to really make a connection to what’s happening on-screen.

Robert Pattinson basically puts on his best lovelorn face throughout, as it becomes blatantly obvious that his character has fallen in love with Witherspoon’s Marlena. He tries his best to give these feelings substance, but the scenes between the two characters seem poorly written and the chemistry between he and Witherspoon is non-existent. Witherspoon works with what she has, but the character does not seem to have any cohesion. Her character seems all over the place without anything that really makes her emotionally interesting. She has married August in order not to starve during the depression, or so we think, but there’s very little character development that we never know this for sure.

However, it is the August character I have the most problems with. Portrayed by Christopher Walz, he is both charming and brutal. However the brutal side of the character seems extremely watered down. He is shown as abusive to the animals, but we only see one case of this happening on film. The movie wants to paint him as the villain, but it does not go far enough to show that he really is. It is obvious that he does love Marlena and that she keeps him grounded.  Honestly, I would have preferred if August and Marlena had worked out their issues and left  the Jacob character out of the equation entirely.

Needless to say, if you’re just looking for a DVD rental with little substance and good for passing the time, this might be the movie for you. Otherwise, just skip it. There are better romantic films out there.

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