Water for Elephants
Violence and Desire under the Big Top
Release Date: April 22, 2011
Genre: Drama/Romantic Drama
Audience: Teenagers and adults
Runtime: 122 minutes
Distributor: 20th Century Fox/News Corp.
Director: Francis Lawrence
Executive Producer: Kevin Halloran
Writer: Richard LaGravenese
Address Comments To:Rupert Murdoch, Chairman/CEO, News Corp.
Chase Carey, President/COO, News Corp.
Tom Rothman and Jim Gianopulos, Chairmen/CEO
Fox Filmed Entertainment
20th Century Fox Film Corp. (Fox Searchlight Pictures/Fox Atomic/FoxFaith)
10201 West Pico Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90035
Phone: (310) 369-1000
Robert Pattinson stars as Jacob, and Hal Holbrook plays Jacob as an old man, who tells his life story one night to the manager of Circus Vargas. Jacob suffers a terrible tragedy in 1931 when his beloved Polish parents are killed in an automobile accident, just as Jacob’s about to take his final exam as a veterinary student at Cornell University. Jacob discovers that his father had taken out a big loan to pay for his schooling, leaving Jacob completely broke.
Jacob leaves Cornell and hops a train for the big city. The train turns out to be run by the Benzini Circus, now owned by a hard-nosed but charismatic German immigrant named August (played by Christoph Waltz), who also serves as the circus ringmaster. August is married to the beautiful Marlene, an orphaned American woman played by Reese Witherspoon. Marlene is the star attraction, riding a beautiful white horse leading other trained horses.
Jacob is immediately attracted to Marlene, but makes an effort to stay away when he learns she’s married to August. August gives Jacob a job as a vet for the circus, even when Jacob decides to put down Marlene’s white horse, that’s in terrible pain from a terminal hoof disease. Then, August buys an elephant named Rosie for a new act for Marlene, to replace her old act with the horses. But, August abuses Rosie while trying to get Jacob to use a circus hook that bites into the elephant’s skin.
Against his better judgment, Jacob stays on with the circus, even though he realizes August has a terrible temper. And, even though he knows August is not above throwing freeloaders and aging or incompetent circus roustabouts off the circus train while it’s going at full speed.
Rosie almost causes Marlene a terrible injury during their first performance under the big top. August goes crazy and beats Rosie with the circus hook, injuring her badly. Jacob decides he must stay with the circus to protect both Rosie and Marlene from August’s violent temper.
The longer Jacob stays, however, the closer he and Marlene become. Eventually, of course, August realizes this growing attraction. Can Jacob and Marlene survive this madman’s jealous, violent rage when it finally breaks free?
Based on a popular novel, WATER FOR ELEPHANTS is entertaining and suspenseful. Though it may be classified as a “woman’s picture,” or “chick flick” to use a more derogatory term that’s unfair, the movie has enough going on to keep both men and women interested. Also, the whole cast does a marvelous job, including veteran Hal Holbrook, who gives the opening and closing scenes a lot of heart and strong positive vibes.
Although the ending gives a firm support to the notions of family, marriage and having children, the rest of WATER FOR ELEPHANTS has some Romantic themes supporting adultery. Also, however, there are some moral elements supporting Jacob’s good intentions of wanting to protect people and animals from August’s violent rage. Thus, overall, this is a conflicted movie with both good and bad content. This leads to a strong, mixed pagan worldview. The movie also has some lewd moments and foul language that violate the biblical standards MOVIEGUIDE® follows. All in all, therefore, MOVIEGUIDE® advises extreme caution for WATER FOR ELEPHANTS.
WATER FOR ELEPHANTS is entertaining and suspenseful, with excellent acting. Although the ending extols family, marriage and having children, the rest of WATER FOR ELEPHANTS has Romantic themes supporting adultery. There are, however, some moral elements concerning Jacob’s good intentions of wanting to protect people and animals from the circus owner’s violent wrath. Thus, overall, this is a conflicted movie with both good and bad. This leads to a mixed pagan worldview. The movie also has some lewd moments and foul language. MOVIEGUIDE® advises extreme caution regarding WATER FOR ELEPHANTS.