30 May 2014

Water for Elephants - Film Review

Based on Sara Gruens captivating novel, this film follows the life of a young Polish man who finds himself a place in a travelling circus following the death of his parents and the loss of his family home.

For anyone who has not read the book (review here), this is a love story set in the time of the great depression, where, despite the wrath of the circus owner, August (Christoph Waltz), our protagonist, Jacob Jankowski (Robert Pattinson), bravely decides to do what is right, all the while falling in love with the August's wife, Marlena (Reese Witherspoon).

The film was easily watchable, complete with a multitude of different emotions, from tense to horribly sad, to shocking and to sweet. While people who have not read the book may think that it a brilliant, I felt that a lot of the emotion was actually lost in translation. many moments that were so poignant in the book were glossed over, with a lot more emphasis being based on the growing romance instead of the constant confusion, the worry over other circus members being red-lighted, and the nagging idea that August is in fact a complete psychopath.

I was glad to see that no such omissions were made regarding Rosie the elephant, as what happens is truly abhorrent and needed to be addressed to build a picture of August's awful nature. This was always going to be a harrowing film, and for me the images of animal abuse brought that element to the fore, along with some of the other abusive scenes toward both Jacob and Marlena.

As far as acting goes, the person who really stood out was Christoph Waltz, playing Marlena's controlling husband. His portrayal was absolutely spot on for this character, and I would have loved to see some of his scenes elongated to show the complexity of his character. Reese Witherspoon didn't really have a chance to flex her acting muscles, given that her character is so quiet and passive throughout the film. Robert Pattinson, on the other hand, delivered a lovely performance to a very strong character. In some ways, Jacob was softened and made into a romantic lead, and while that is quite good for the film (you need to have some lovely moments in all that darkness), the book tells it a little bit differently.

The whole film actually felt quite rushed, with many scenes and poignant moments losing out or being hardly registered. Some aspects were cut out altogether (but that's very common in film adaptations) and a lot of the time the pace sped on quite dramatically. It was an entertaining film, but I felt that it didn't do the book quite enough justice. Suitable for people who like drama, romance and films featuring Robert Pattinson. A 7 out of 10.