Take a journey back in time with the romantic tale based on Sara Gruen’s New York Times #1 Best-Seller novel of the same name, Water For Elephants, coming to Blu-ray and DVD on November 1st from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment. Starring Academy Award®-winner Reese Witherspoon (Walk The Line), Robert Pattinson (Twilight series) and Oscar®-winner Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds), the film presents an epic tale of forbidden love in a magical place filled with adventure, wonder and great danger. Showcasing the decadence of a bohemian circus and the majesty of its animals against the backdrop and beauty of a bygone era, Water For Elephants makes the ideal holiday gift idea for your favorite film buff, fashionista or book-lover!
Devastated by the sudden death of his parents at the height of The Depression, a young dreamer from the wrong side of the tracks, Jacob Jankowski (Pattinson), abandons his veterinary studies at Cornell University. With no other family, no house, and no money, Jacob stows away on a train carrying the circus performers of The Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. Hired as a veterinarian to care for the troupe’s animals, Jacob is temporarily filled with the promise of an exciting life that comes with a traveling circus troupe. However, as he builds a rapport and falls in love with the star of the show, Marlena (Witherspoon), they become prey to the circus’s owner, Marlena’s violent and abusive husband August (Waltz). As the circus begins to crumble from within and against all odds, Jacob and Marlena come together and fall in love through their compassion for a special elephant. With their love on the line, Jacob and Marlena come to a crossroads that will forever change their destiny.
Directed by critically-acclaimed filmmaker Francis Lawrence (Constantine), Water For Elephants features fantastic supporting performances from Paul Schneider (Lars and the Real Girl), Jim Norton (Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets), Mark Povinelli (The Polar Express), Richard Brake (Batman Begins), and Academy Award®-nominee Hal Holbrook (Into the Wild).
I picked up Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen eighteen months ago when I heard that Robert Pattinson had been cast as the leading man. I was blown away by the story - the romance, the exotic setting of a circus, the cruelty, the friendships, and more. It was one of my favorite reads of 2010. I was unable to make it to the theater to see Water For Elephants last spring, so I was beyond thrilled that Fox offered me the opportunity to review and discuss an early copy of the DVD. Like most movies adapted from a novel, the film version of Water For Elephants is not as good as the book, but I still really enjoyed it.
I loved the fashion. Clothes are one of the best ways to showcase a particular moment in time and the costumes in Water For Elephants were fabulous. I particularly liked the clothes that the circus audience wore. Every day people wear. One little girl stood out (probably because of the close-up shot); she was wearing a sailor outfit and had Shirley Temple curls. Adorable. Marlena's dresses and costumes were another highlight. Her performance costume was exotic and glamorous. I wondered whether it was a little too risque for the time period, but I would assume the costume designer kept it in line with 1930s performer outfits. The gowns she wore at the dinner scenes were gorgeous - simple yet elegant.
What I didn't like as much was Jacob and Marlena together. Call me a Cougar-hater, but I could not get past the fact that she is ten years older than him. As a result, instead of going "Awww..." when they kissed, I went "Ewww..." Yes, I know. Very mature. I don't remember if it said how old Marlena was in the book, but I never thought was she more than a year or two older than he was. While I think Reese acted the part of Marlena wonderfully, I would have liked the romance better if they had chosen a younger actress. (Or an older actor, but Rob is the right age for Jacob)
Since the film cannot and should not be 10 hours long, many parts of the book were condensed or left out. This made some of the connections a bit choppy. For example, we got to know Walter and Camel, but not nearly as well as in the book. The focus on the triangle between August, Marlena, and Rob - as well as Rosie the elephant - was the main feature of the movie. There wasn't time to get the same feel for day to day life for the circus lackies as in the book. Like the book, the movie features Jacob as an old man looking back on his life. Part of me thinks it would have been smoother to skip old Jacob and just focus on the 1930s. But old Jacob's reminisces were some of my favorite scenes in the book. I rather like the references to them in the movie.
If I had my choice between reading the book Water For Elephants and watching the film Water For Elephants, I'd choose the book any day, but that's the case with almost any book versus movie (and the reason I have a book blog, not a film blog). If I had the choice between the film Water For Elephants and many other films, I would probably choose Water For Elephants. The gorgeous cinematography transported me back in time and the actors did a great job of bringing to life and even enhancing characters I loved from the novel.
I highly recommend Water For Elephants the film! And if you haven't read Water For Elephants the book yet, pick it up and then watch the film. Both are wonderful.
*I was provided a free copy of Water For Elephants in exchange for an honest review.