A blog dealing with either the joy of cinema or the agony of cinema--nothing in between.
Saturday, April 23, 2011
Water for Elephants
Oh how critics can put a damper on your expectations for a film. When I saw the previews for Water for Elephants, the adaptation of Sara Gruen's beloved bestseller, I was rife with anticipation for what seemed to be a stunning motion picture. Then the reviews came in and claims of "not being as good as the book" and "one ring short of a three ring spectacle" more than soured my outlook. In actuality, Water for Elephants is an unabashedly old-fashioned movie, epic in scope, that hearkens back to the days of the lush Technicolor films of the 50s and 60s. It is a glorious spectacle of a film, even if it is imperfect. The story opens with an old man (the great Hal Holbrook) showing up late to the circus. As the manager tries to get a hold of the nursing home, the man relays his story of how he was part of the greatest circus disaster ever back in 1931: As a young man (now Roberrt Pattinson), while preparing to graduate veterinary school, his parents were killed in a car accident leaving him with nothing in Depression era America. With just a briefcase in tow, he hops a train which good fortune would have be the locomotive for the Benzini Brothers Circus. There he procures a job as the company veterinarian, becomes the trainer of the new star elephant, and begins a love affair with a lead performer (Reese Witherspoon) who happens to be married to the charismatic but brutal circus owner (Christoph Waltz). Directed by Francis Lawrence from a script by Richard LaGravenese, Water for Elephants is made up of beautiful visuals shot in striking colors, as all the elements of the travelling circus are on full display. The love story seemed a little lacking. Pattinson isn't bad but he's a pretty boring actor and Witherspoon, whom I admire, is miscast playing her character in an unattractive way that makes you question Pattinson's feelings for her. However, Christoph Waltz is splendid, playing another character like his Oscar winning whirlwind in Inglorious Basterds, who manages to be simultaneously charming and repulsive at the same time. Although the two leads are somewhat uninspired, Water for Elephants is a compelling and old-fashioned film, the kind that is rarely seen today and should be embraced. Book comparisons have no place in film reviews and movies must be viewed independently from their source material as hard as it may be. The good thing about diminished expectations is that the film comes off as that much better when we are expecting a letdown.