‘Water for Elephants’: When sexual tension is the elephant in the room

Water for Elephants (2011)

Directed by Francis Lawrence

7/10 PG-13

First impression: it’s good to see Robert Pattinson with some color in his skin. Water for Elephants, starring Reese Witherspoon, Christoph Waltz, and the aforementioned Pattinson, is the story of one young man’s quest for a new life. When Jacob Jankowski (Pattinson) learns of bad news during his last day at Cornell University veterinary school, he runs from his life and finds himself aboard a train belonging to the “Most Spectacular Show on Earth,” the Benzini Brothers circus. When the circus acquires a new act, a grand female elephant, (played wonderfully, I will discuss later) Jacob is hired to care for her. The plot thickens when Marlena, (Witherspoon) the star of the show, begins to fall in love with Jacob, and her husband (Waltz) is none too pleased. The rest is not exactly what you would expect, unless you read the Sara Gruen novel the movie is based on. But readers, do not be discouraged! Being a reader myself, I knew what to expect. To my satisfaction, the beautiful scenes I imagined in my head when I read the book pale in comparison to the beautiful sets in the film.

While Pattinson plays a dull—though “livelier” (think Twilight)—role, his co-workers make up for it. Reese Witherspoon plays a beautiful Marlena, and Waltz is fantastic as August, Marlena’s husband. This role will remind you why Waltz won an Academy Award just two years before for his role in Inglorious Basterds. Last, but certainly not least, the real star of the show is Tai, the beautiful elephant that plays Daisy. While most movies would take the easy route and use special effects and animatronics to splice Daisy in, Water for Elephants uses the majestic Tai. This chemistry between Pattinson and Tai is perfect. For readers and non-readers of the novel alike, Water for Elephants has something for everyone. The dad will like Waltz’s violent antics, the moms will adore Pattinson, and the kids (Roger Ebert calls it “a safe PG-13”) will surely fall in love with Daisy the first time they lay eyes on her.

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