Thursday, January 12, 2012

Water For Elephants (2011) ** 1/2

First Bella, Now Renee.....
             I've actually never been to a circus before, though I always wanted to. All of my friends who had seen one told me that it was a very magical event in their whole entire lives, and that they would never forget it. Well, Water For Elephants captures that amazing circus experience, and much more.
           In the drama, Jacob Jankowski (Robert Pattinson) almost gets his veterinary college degree, when his parents get killed in a car crash. Since this is the Great Depression, he is kicked out of his house, and finds work at the Benzini Brothers Circus as a vet for the animals, including a smart elephant. ( Looks like movies always finds a solution.) While he's there, he falls in love with the star attraction, Marlena, who's gorgeously played by Resse Witherspoon. As always in these movies, they fall in love, which really upsets her husband, August. He's also the circus owner, animal trainer,Marlene's husband, the main evil antagonist, the ringleader, and played by Oscar winner Christoph Waltz. Uh-oh.
          This film was filmed in the old-fashioned sense of entertainment, in which life is very magical, and everything is cotton candy, popcorn, champagne, and elephant dung. For example, I kept being mesmerized by the beautiful circus scenes, especially when Resse does something extraordinary with the horses and the elephant. It's just so amazing and perfect, that I wish I saw it in a real circus.
      However, it also shows viewers the darker side of show business, and nothing comes close to representing darkness than its villain, August. Throughout this entire movie, I could remember hating this evil, greedy, temperamental, psychologically troubled, hypocritical, wickedly charming, and loathing brat. There I wrote it, and I feel better. If an actor plays someone so malicious and you write bad words about him, he's doing a really good job.
          Fortunately, we've got our romantic couple to lean on for support, and they did really great acting. We could feel the inner demons that they suffer from, and we really sympathize with them. The chemistry between them was okay, but not like the Spencer and Kate playful love type at all. At least, it worked for the movie's magical tone. The only real complaint was that I found Jacob really bland/average. (America, please don't hate me. I know that he won the Teen's Choice movie award, which he deserved, but that's how I felt what his character felt like. I felt like that role could have been played better by Leonardo DiCaprio.) However, Resse was great and perfectly cast as the female love, and she really brings out her best in this role.
        The rest of the acting was terrific, and Rosy the elephant is wonderful and smart. In one scene, she took out her stake, and went to drink some lemonade, and then she went back to her spot, and made it look that it never happened. :) The art direction was appropriate for the time period, the filming was awesome and I learned a lot more about circuses than I did before.
              However, there just seem to be too many cliques in Water For Elephants. In fact, I could do a side by side comparison with the movie Titanic (1997), and I'd get the same results. For both films, there's an old guy tells story, a big disaster, and a love affair that's smack dab in the middle of it. The only real difference is the time period and setting. Another problem I had with this was that it was very predictable. Even though I never read the book, I could already tell what was going to happen, and predictability always frustrates me.  Grr.
          My major concern comes from Roger Ebert's review, in which he states that this is " pure family entertainment". Sorry, Roger, but you're wrong. This had way too much sex, violence ( Rosy, Jacob, and Marlene gets beaten a lot during this movie), and drinking to be allowed as a family film. I think the reason why he said it was because of the musical score by James Newton Howard. The haunting score reminds us of our childhood, where the magic of circuses was and still is everywhere.

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