Trains, Adultery and Whiskey: A vague review of Water for Elephants

The following is a guest post from Corey Core.

I want to preface by stating that I have not read the book which the film is based on. I am only reviewing the film, because I’m probably never going to read the book.

Water for Elephants has a rather boring poster. It looks like a cheap ploy to get people into the theatre to see Robert Pattinson in the wake of the Twilight epidemic. I was reluctant to see a film starring said actor. To be honest, I’m not really a fan of Reese Witherspoon, either. Also, no water, and only one elephant hiding in the background, just a vague reference to the circus and the glimpse of a box car. I try to stay up-to-date on upcoming movies and I had not heard or read anything about the film, beyond the fact that it had a lousy poster. But as we know, we’re not supposed to judge things based on their ‘cover,’ and I’m a big fan of circus-based films like Big Fish and Big Top Pee Wee.

It was Mother’s Day and I promised to take my maternal unit to the movies. Being a fan of film in general, I agreed to take her to see Water for Elephants after discovering that the great Christoph Waltz was playing the role of August, a seemingly successful yet menacing ringleader. Some of you may recall his performance as the SS agent in Tarintino’s Inglorious Basterds. I was also pleased to discover that Paul Schneider (All the Real Girls, Parks and Recreation) and Hal Holbrook (Into the Wild, Sons of Anarchy) were also minor characters, who set the stage for the story. The biggest surprise for me was to see Ken Foree in something again. If you don’t know who that is, you’ve probably never seen either Dawn of the Dead… or watched Keenan and Kel. Foree spend just about all of his screen time punching people, restraining other people or jus plain throwing people out of moving trains. Awesome.

I’m going to try to keep this as simple as possible because this is the Internet and you can look elsewhere to find a detailed description of this film/book. Water for Elephants is set during the prohibition/depression era in the eastern US. The majority of the film is in New York, there was some mention of Albany and a portion of the story takes place in what appeared to be Brooklyn. Pattinson portrays a young veterinary school student who is left with nothing after his parents’ tragic death. With nothing to his name, he jumps a train, which turns out to be a traveling circus. He quickly joins ranks shoveling animal shit and makes his way up to the resident veterinarian for the circus. Blah blah blah… he falls in love with the ringleader’s wife, and they make out a little, the circus buys an elephant that only understands Polish from another circus, Waltz is really mean to it, husband and wife trouble, third wheel stuff. I don’t feel like giving away too much of the story, but the ending was pretty intense and I found myself pretty enthralled throughout.

Overall, I enjoyed the movie. Once I realized it had more to do with the circus and this incredible elephant than a fucking sappy romance between a young boy and a married circus performer, I actually relaxed and let myself take it in. I think the best acting goes to the elephant, named Rosie, who in a way is responsible for their relationship. Did I mention that Rosie drinks whiskey? I do have to warn you animal rights activists that some scenes are a bit difficult to watch, but remember it’s just a Robert Pattinson movie.

I give Water for Elephants 3 and a half stars out of 5.

One of my favorite things about cinema is to walk into a theatre with little or no expectations and be blown away. I think I was just more surprised that I didn’t hate it. Turns out to be a decent date-night film that most people can get into, or just a movie you can watch with your mom.

I had fun writing this, so I hope to do some more as the summer movie season gets into full swing. I’m open to suggestions for films to review as well; I don’t think they put a cap on how many movies I can add to my Netflix queue just yet.

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