¨I don`t know if I picked that circus. But something told me that circus picked me.¨
Francis Lawrence (I am Legend, Constantine) directed this film which was adapted from Sara Gruen`s novel of the same name by screenwriter Richard LaGravenese (P.S. I Love You, The Bridges of Madison County). Water for Elephants is a period drama that takes us back to the era of the Great Depression and introduces us to the dark side of the circus entertainment industry. Not everything is pure fun and entertainment because once the show is over we get to see the suffering and difficulties that go along with running a circus. Some things are just illusions as we soon find out from the mean spirited manager of the traveling circus. He seems so fun and nice during the show, but when the lights go off he runs the place with a stern hand, throwing coworkers off a running train, or beating animals whenever he`s upset. The mood of the Great Depression can be felt throughout the entire film, and only when the show is running can we experience the illusion of happiness. There is also a love triangle involved which makes things more depressing because it proves how difficult love can be at times. I really enjoyed this period drama and thought it depicted the era quite nicely. There are some interesting characters, but the heart of the film revolves around the elephant (which happens to be the star of the circus and the symbol of hope during their struggle to survive).
Jacob Jankowski (Robert Pattinson) is a veterinary student who seems to be living a normal life until he receives some bad news: his parents have just passed away in a car accident leaving him with nothing. Jacob abandons college and ends up spending the night on a train. The train happens to belong to a traveling circus but there is no space for newcomers. One of the men that find him wants to throw him off the train, but another saves him and introduces him to the manager of the circus: August (Christoph Waltz). August runs the circus with a very stern hand, he`s volatile and dangerous, but at the same time he has the charisma it takes to run a circus show. When August realizes that Jacob is a veterinarian, he hires him so that he can take care of the animals which are pretty much all in a bad shape. The first thing he has to do is sacrifice one of the horses who was badly injured, and unfortunately happened to be the star of the circus along with her rider Marlena (Reese Witherspoon). Now with little money and no main attraction to bring in an audience the circus is barely struggling to survive. August might be mean and evil, but he is a visionary and finds an opportunity when he encounters an elephant named Rosie and decides to invest all his money on that animal. Marlena must learn how to ride it, and Jacob how to master it. The two young good looking kids spend a lot of time together and they begin to fall for each other. The only problem is that Marlena is married to August and he will surely not let go of her so easily.
I could think of no better actor to play the part of August than Christoph Waltz. He is just great in this film and inspired fear every time he got upset. He proved Inglorious Basterds was no fluke and he is a great villain. At times he seemed nice, but he was just a time bomb waiting to explode the moment something went wrong. I loved Reese Witherspoon in Walk the Line, but in this film her performance isn`t really memorable. I would have preferred another actress in this role, I really didn`t feel the chemistry between her and Robert Pattinson. It was good to see Pattinson playing a none-vampire role, but I would have chosen two different actors to play these roles. They are probably the weakest links in the film. The film actually picks up when we are introduced to Rosie, the elephant. Without her I don’t think I would have enjoyed the movie as much as I did. She doesn’t just save the circus, she also saves this film. She is the heart and soul of the picture. This isn`t one of the best films of the year, but it is a satisfying and entertaining film and definitely worth your time. It could have been so much better if the lead actors would have had a better chemistry between them. The romance didn`t work as well as it should have, but the film still succeeds at depicting the era and the mood during the Great Depression. Rosie and Waltz are worth the ticket price alone.