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Water for Elephants

A 2011 movie directed by Francis Lawrence.

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Water for Elephants... left the glass half empty

  • Apr 26, 2011

Under most circumstances I love period pieces.  All of the research and work that goes into a production from start to finish that makes the film feel authentic.  Wardrobe, hair styles, make-up, props, vehicles/transportation, speech, etc.  All of the little things that can ultimately make or break a period piece if it is supposed to feel realistic.  Right off the bat we are told that "THIS FILM TAKES PLACE IN 1931", like we are being beat over the head with that fact, which I get but I think the images you are shown give you enough to be able to come to that conclusion for yourself. 

Water for Elephants is a pretty picture to look at, with potential for something quite good based on their casting choices, but the flick itself falls flat.  I can't quite tell you where it missed the ball, but there is just something that doesn't feel right.  It might be that the film is too short to really give it the one-two I was hoping for.  It might be that the book is so dark and twisted that the studio felt it wouldn't translate well to audiences through a visual medium so they left out some of the more grusome details.  It might just be that the cast did not get into the roles enough to deliver truly believable characters.  All I know is that when I walked out I felt like I had spent 2 hrs watching people talk in mono-tones and wasn't sure where to go from there.

I'll be honest, I have not read the novel, and in a way I was glad because the last few films I have gone to see that were based off books let me down as they did not live up to the potential of the stories.  I went in expecting Christoph Waltz to be this horribly delicious evil man, living up to the type-casting that he has been subjected to since playing Col. Hans Landa in Inglourious Basterds, but no. He was sadly not as visious as I wanted him to be.  I know it's gross that I'm saying this but I wanted to see him throw around and beat Marlena (Reese Witherspoon), but no he was a bad man... but not a "BAD" man.  Even Reese Witherspoon was her usual self, as she gave an average performance.  Robert Pattinson did a decent job portraying a 1930s american, and it was nice to see a little color to him than the usual pale white we've been seeing for the last 3 years. 

I think my biggest issue with Water for Elephants is that it is presented as a flashback film, and there is no point to it.  Maybe the telling of the story in this method is pulled off in the novel, but for the film I'd rather have been unaware of the outcome of these characters than know going in that no matter how much shit they go through in the end everything turns out ok in a happy ending.  It made the suspense of the film a little less effective since we knew the main characters were truly in no real danger at all. 

All in all I give Water for Elephants a 1 out of 5 for effort. 

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May 06, 2011
Wow...that's harsh. Then again, I read (and loved) the book and found the movie quite a loyal adaptation of the book. I very much enjoyed the movie and was surprised that many of the reviews weren't better.
April 26, 2011
Aw, this is too bad to hear since I was kind of looking forward to it (love Reese Witherspoon and Rob Pattinson!). Hmmm... if I have time to see it, I will, but if I don't, then meh :P Thanks for sharing!
April 26, 2011
The Two Jews On Film loved it...a lot. 4 1/2 bagels out of 5
May 06, 2011
I haven't reviewed it (forgot when I saw it last week) but I'd give it at least 4/5 myself.
April 26, 2011
thanks for the review. I was really on the fence with this one, I was kind of interested (I like period films) but something was holding me back. Great review and I'll probably save this as a rental... :)
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Star Rating:         Water for Elephants, based on the novel by Sara Gruen, is a gloriously old-fashioned movie – a lurid romantic melodrama that plays on the emotions like a finely-tuned violin. With its visual splendor, its touches of Depression-era grittiness, and its love-struck main characters, the film has a charmingly nostalgic feel about it. It even supplies us with one of the best narrative conventions there is, namely a life story told in flashback by …
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About the reviewer
Hannah aka Angry Penguin ()
Ranked #109
I am a film fanatic, constantly watching films new and old. When not watching movies I'm reading YA lit or sci-fi/fantasy novels, or working on completing my own book.      If … more
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About this movie


A veterinary student abandons his studies after his parents are killed and joins a traveling circus as their vet.
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Director: Francis Lawrence
Genre: Drama
Release Date: 22 April 2011 (USA)
Runtime: 120 minutes
Studio: Fox 2000 Pictures, 3 Arts Entertainment, Flashpoint Entertainment
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