Water for Elephants: three stars
Rated: PG-13 for mature subject matter
There’s something timeless about a love story that focuses on a beautiful bareback horse rider and a young man who runs away and joins the circus. What makes Water for Elephants even more endearing is the addition of a third character named August who reminds us just why the Best Supporting Actor Oscar went to Christoph Waltz for his role in Inglorious Basterds.
The young man is Jacob. The film begins with an older version of him (Hal Holbrook) recanting the tale of how he came to join the circus and meet and fall in love with the bareback rider. Robert Pattison plays the younger version of Jacob. He’s smart; he’s handsome; he attends Cornell University in the hopes of becoming a veterinarian. That changes when his parents die in 1931. Uncertain of his life, he drops out of school and hops a train, which just so happens (wouldn’t you know it) to be a circus train. August is about to throw him off the speeding locomotive when he learns that Jacob knows a thing or two about animal medicine. Spared from being smeared across the landscape, Jacob meets Marlena (Reese Witherspoon), the young and beautiful bareback rider who also happens to be August’s wife.
The film takes place during the Great Depression. Jobs are scarce, money even scarcer. The circus is swimming in debt until August implements a new star attraction, one he believes will buoy the drowning big top and put them back in the spotlight. This is Rosie, a middle-aged elephant he thinks Marlena can ride and Jacob can train and care for, though neither has done this before.
Water for Elephants is a unique and sound family film. There’s an intrinsic charm between Jacob and Rosie, and the movie surrounds them with a realistic portrait of circus life on the road. It is also a refreshing interlude before the beginning of summer blockbusters.
‘Til next time! See you at the movies.