Every time I start to think about “Water for Elephants” I’m reminded of Annie Hancock. The original book was made during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) of which Annie has been taking part in. In just one little month, something so beautiful can be produced. I have no doubt one of Annie’s novels will be just as well loved and come with its own movie deal 😉
I do not want to spoil the book or the movie for those who want to go to see it, but I’ll do my best to review without giving too much away 😉
The movie was probably one of the better adaptations I’ve seen in a long while. There were clearly a few liberties taken to help move the 335 page novel along to a 120 minute full-feature movie. Some characters left out or squished into other characters (Uncle Al the owner in the book is basically just melted into August’s character in the movie)… but it all made sense.
The story is about 23-year-old man named Jacob who, after his family dies and he is left with nothing on the day of his last final for Cornell Veterinary School, stows away on a circus train. After some time, he’s able to work with the circus animals and talks himself into becoming the circus vet (even without his official credentials). He develops a bond with the animals, fellow circus men and the lovely Marlena who is the star of the main act with black and white horses. Marlena is married to a very charming, but very violent man named August who is the head trainer abuses all the animals in circus, especially Rosie the elephant. Jacob gets tasked with training Rosie for the shows to help save the near bankrupt circus. The bond Jacob has with Rosie is really the best part of the book and movie for me. Marlena and Jacob grow close and as August catches on things get intense quickly. We know that the circus ends up shutting down after a massive accident, so you’ll just have to read or see the movie to find out what happens and if anyone makes it out alive… and with who… dun dun dun.
The major themes were still intact. Water: healing, self-worth, purifying… Train Tracks: choosing your direction or making your own decision…
I think that no one but Reese Witherspoon could have played Marlena (the book’s female lead). Marlena has to have this pure sweetness and caring with the animals that she works with in the circus and you believe it 100% with Reese. I heard that originally they wanted Scarlett Johanson, which would have made Marlena too much of a sex-pot and not enough like a genuinely sweet, attractive and talented girl who’s stuck in this show with August.
August, played by Christoph Waltz, was incredible. I’m pretty sure Waltz has to be a bad guy in every movie from now… he’s just so good at it!
I’m STILL not a Robert Pattinson fan, but I could tolerate him in this movie. He wasn’t *always* looking all emo stalker creepy in every shot. If you are a Rob Pats fan, I’m sure you’ll love the film though. I think Joseph Gordon-Levitt would have been nice to see in the role, but he might have been a little too short…alas. I think I’m just on a “Joseph Gordon-Levitt can play anything in any movie” kick but that’s neither here nor there.
All in all, I give everything a 4 out of 5. The imagery is great, the costumes and sets put you right in the era and the book actually held my goldfish attention span.