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The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Water for Elephants a three-ring circus under, outside the big top

By Frankie Farrar-Helm/entertainment editor

Lions and tigers and bears — oh my.

Clowns and strippers and drunks — oh dear.

But hatred and vengeance and love — that’s the main attraction.

Water for Elephants is more than just a circus under the big top.

Jacob Jankowski, played by Robert Pattinson, sits beside Rosie, the newest attraction to the Benzini Brothers circus of the ’30s in Water for Elephants.
Photo courtesy 20th Century Fox

Thanks to brilliant performances, stunning cinematography and imaginative storytelling, Water for Elephants is a delightful, captivating adaptation of Sara Gruen’s best-selling novel.

The fascinating story is told through the memory of Jacob Jankowski (Hal Holbrook), an elderly man found outside of a circus box office late at night who reflects on his own experience with the legendary Benzini Brothers circus from the ’30s.

About to take his final exam at Cornell University to become a veterinarian, Jacob (played as a young man by Robert Pattinson) is pulled from his test and told of a tragic accident that will change his life forever. Shocked and aimless, he packs his belongings and jumps on a passing train to an unknown destination hoping to begin a new life. What he did not know was the train, a traveling circus, would become his life.

Here, his eyes fall on sweet Marlena (Reese Witherspoon), a dazzling, strong-hearted performer who just happens to be the wife of August (Christoph Waltz), the circus’ rigorous, short-tempered owner and ringleader. Excited at first when August accepts him into the Benzini Brothers’ family as the circus’ veterinarian, Jacob learns about the menacing character behind August’s wide grin and happy-go-lucky facade. He quickly realizes what he got himself into.

The only thing keeping Jacob from leaving the circus is the pain and cruel punishment August inflicts on his circus workers, including Marlena and the newest addition to the family, Rosie, a veteran performing elephant.

With an original plot, Water for Elephants is a romantic fantasy thriller with a fabulous, talented cast.

Rosie is the real deal. She’s amusing, loving and protective while also the most vulnerable soul on the screen. As gifted as she is to the action with her timing and her tricks, one could almost say that Rosie’s performance is as vital to the film as the big top is to the circus.

Pattinson plays a character much different than the dramatic, pale-faced vampire from the Twilight series. His performance is mediocre, but it’s his facial expressions, which are visibly full of anger for August’s treacherous acts and passionate love for Marlena’s free spirit, that engage the viewer.

Witherspoon, who delivers a far more mature role than her Legally Blonde character, has the necessary beauty and grace to play the main attraction with a happily-ever-after attitude but is actually in need of rescue. Together, Witherspoon and Pattinson display an obvious, almost unspoken chemistry that’s impossible to ignore.

Waltz is the center of it all. His performance is flawless. Most worthy of praise is his ability to embody contradiction. Waltz plays a complicated personality, a man who has control of everyone around him but not himself, who starves for friendship but has no real friends, who is childish and sinful, loving and hateful and entirely unpredictable.

The fun-loving but violent dynamic between Pattinson, Witherspoon and Waltz is powerful and gripping.

Overall, Water for Elephants is a romantic, chaotic tale, full of drunks, confused souls and exotic, wild animals — a circus within a circus.

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