WATER FOR ELEPHANTS (Francis Lawrence)


I haven't read the novel by Sara Gruen, but based on what I saw with Richard LaGravanese's (FREEDOM WRITERS) screenplay and Francis Lawrence's (CONSTANTINE) direction, WATER FOR ELEPHANTS is a really compelling love story not only between humans in the most unexpected of places, but for all creatures of God as well. 

The traveling circus is indeed a great irony, or mockery if you will for life, which is billed "the greatest show on Earth" by this movie. You see, the circus hides behind the facade of joy, decadence and spectacle fragmented lives struggling for survival. As Christoph Waltz's character August puts it, when his star attraction has to be put down and the beasts begin eating scraps, then it's gonna get worse for the men and women of the circus.  (I'm just paraphrasing the thought.)

And finally, a Robert Pattinson movie I won't feel guilty seeing afterwards. BREAKING DAWN is coming later this year, so this is a nice break from his pale character (no pun intended). 

At first glance, a love triangle between Pattinson, Reese Whiterspoon, and Christoph Waltz seem too far-fetched and unimaginable that the only film I recall to have almost pulled it off is Maryo J. Delos Reyes's A LOVE STORY. However, as the story progresses, the age barrier is blurred by the stirring human drama between people who are forced into difficult choices by the depressing era they are in (the story is set during the Great Depression).

Waltz is a genius character actor. At one point he shows his charm and almost believable kindness, but then his ruthlessness surfaces, and when he's mad he's really scary. Imagine Hans Landa without the towering ego.

The film opens in present day where we see an old man named Jacob Jankowski (a very worthy special appearance by the legendary Hal Holbrook) visit a traveling circus. He then tells his story to a young man and we see the story unfold during the narrator's youth. Cue in Pattinson. 

The images in WATER FOR ELEPHANTS are almost dreamlike: the settings are majestic, the shots are subtle, and the way Francis Lawrence treats his visual canvas is so compelling. Every frame is a visual delight. I've seen CONSTANTINE and I AM LEGEND so those testify to his visual signature.

And the way circuses treat animals is gut-wrenching; let's just say animal rights activists may want to sit this one out. The elephant in the movie saves the day in the end, though. I was in tears. (Enough of the spoilers)

RATING: 4/5


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