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The Circus is Coming to Town| Leisure by Arnold Leibrandt
Travelling circus owner accused of animal abuse
Water for Elephants (2011) is a romantic drama set in the midst of the American Great Depression about a travelling circus.
The film follows a young man named Jacob (Robert Pattinson) who on the day of writing his final veterinarian exam is excused from class and informed that his parents have been killed in a car accident.
Jacobís family lawyer then tells him that his fatherís butchery was not making any money due to the manís generous behaviour. He also informs Jacob that the bank intends on repossessing his parentís house as they had used the property as collateral in order to get money from the bank to pay for Jacobís tuition fees.
Jacob then decides to abandon his studies and go to the city to try and find work.
On his travels he jumps onto a passing train, and the next morning finds out that he is in fact on the transport train of the travelling Benzini Brothers circus.
Jacob is introduced to the owner of the circus, August (Academy award winner Christoph Waltz), who hires Jacob as the official circus vet.
At first everything seems perfect, but Jacob soon learns the truth behind all the glitz and glamour of the mesmerising circus acts.
In reality the circus is struggling to pull in the big crowds and therefore August is unable to pay his workers. It is also revealed that August is not only the worst boss on the planet but is also a drunk who becomes both verbally and physically abusive to the circus animals and his wife and circus main-act Marlena (Academy Award winner Reese Witherspoon).
And just when you thought things couldnít get any worse Jacob and Marlena start to fall in love with each other.
Now not only is Jacob working for pure evil, but he lied about the fact that he is a qualified vet and heís in love with a woman who is not only sufficiently older than him but is also married to his boss.
And when some of the circus workers start mysteriously disappearing even though the train has not made any stops, it seems as if Jacob is stuck between a rock and a hard place, or more fittingly, between an elephant and a psychopath.
From a technical point of view the editing (done by Rodrigo Prieto) and cinematography (the lighting and camera work, for those of you who arenít movie buffs; done by Allan Bell) is spectacular and beautifully emphasises the extravaganza that is the circus. At the same time, however, it also manages to remain perfectly subtle during the more emotional scenes.
The film is not an action-packed summer blockbuster though; instead the movie is quite slow moving and is driven solely by character relations and emotion.
As far as overall acting is concerned we see acting veteran Christoph Waltz once again playing the villain that everyone loves to hate superbly (but with a surprisingly bad accent). However, this leads to the assumption that Hollywood is type casting him.
Reese Witherspoonís performance as an innocent yet abused woman with a die-hard love for animals is inspiring and yet another example as to why she is an Oscar winner.
Although she doesnít strike me as the most beautiful woman in the world (as ďJacobĒ sees her in the film) thatís just a matter of opinion and in no way questions her ability as an actress. Then again this statement might have something to do with the fact that the chemistry between Pattinson and Witherspoon is virtually non-existent.
As far as Robert Pattinsonís performance is concerned he delivers a good performance but it pales in comparison to his Oscar winning co-stars. Maybe it was harsh to name drop him in a previous Bizpremises article about up-and-coming bad actors that are complimented by visual ecstasy such as 3D and visual effects, because his performance in this movie shows he does posses acting talent, but at some extreme points in the film he fails to bring the emotion across.
If youíre a die-hard Pattinson fan you may very well disagree with me and say that he is the next De Niro, but then again if you are a die-hard Pattinson fan chances are you pay more attention to his other characteristics than his acting abilities.
On a more critical note though the film is fairly entertaining, though it does tend to get a tad melodramatic at times. Itís a good watch for all those fans of romantic dramas and by the looks of it there are a lot of you Ė the film did considerably well at the box office and received plenty of positive reviews.
If youíre a fan of reading more than you are of movies though youíll be pleased to know Water for Elephants is based on a novel of the same name written by Sara Gruen, and chances are that the novel is better than the movie as this is usually the case with film adaptations.
Lastly, I would just like to point out the similarities between this filmís premise and that of a 1997 award-winning blockbuster.
The film starts off with an older version of one of the main characters telling the story of his or her past, which then features the rest of the film as one long, continuous back flash.
The movie then follows the life of a young man down on his luck (played by Hollywoodís up and coming young heart throb) who by chance finds himself on a large transportation vessel. He then ends up falling in love with a woman that is not only out of his league but is involved with another man, but she is unhappy in her current relationship. He and this woman end up falling in love with each other and this drives her former lover to extreme measures due to jealousy.
If youíre still having trouble figuring out what film Iím referencing my final clue is that all thatís missing is a Celine Dion theme song and the movies would be practically identical.
Starring: Robert Pattinson, Reese Witherspoon and Christoph Waltz
Directed By: Francis Lawrence
Rating: 3 out of 5