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Water for Elephants

2011-04-13 10:36
 
A visually rich and enjoyable film despite an unoriginal plot.
What it's about

Set in depression-era America, Water for Elephants tells the story of Jacob (Robert Pattinson), a young man studying veterinary sciences at Cornell University who, after his Polish-immigrant parents are killed in a car crash, abandons his studies and joins a struggling circus. Working as their vet, he has to learn to deal with his volatile and violent boss (Christoph Waltz), all the while struggling with burgeoning feelings for that very same boss's wife (Reese Witherspoon).      

What we thought

Bringing to mind the told-through-flashback-style narratives of great films like Big Fish, Forrest Gump, Fried Green Tomatoes and Amadeus, Water for Elephants starts off with a lot of promise. Even the presence of the Twilight series' own Robert Pattinson can't dispel the feeling that you're in for something truly special. Sadly, two very long hours later, it's hard not to find yourself wondering just where on  earth all that promise went. Water for Elephants isn't a bad film by any means but it is a very underwhelming one.

The biggest problem – or one of them, anyway – is that the story itself just isn't all that hot. The film may set itself up as a classic piece of storytelling but it soon becomes clear that the narrative being recounted by the film's protagonist is not quite original. It has its moments but this is a story that feels overly familiar and any possible interest is cast aside for the rote and uninspiring convention of having the young hero getting involved with the wife of a dangerous villain and... well, I'm sure you can guess the rest.

Director Francis Lawrence has shown in his past work (Constantine, I Am Legend) to be a director with a certain amount of visual flair but only a perfunctory sense of storytelling. Ultimately, the story does feel like an afterthought to capturing the lavish look and feel of a very picturesque (if not exactly prosperous) time in America's history. It's a fine looking film and it does convincingly capture a world that is alien to most of its audience but you almost wouldn't notice if they left the story out entirely.

Weak story or no weak story, one thing is certain, though: no one would have noticed if they left Robert Pattinson out completely. Or, for that matter, if they replaced him with an action figure of his Twilight character. Aside for being able to pull off a fairly convincing American accent, Pattinson  is a very limited actor and an almost non-existent screen presence. Put him up against a very fine actress like Reese Witherspoon, he struggles to keep up and he all but fades into the scenery the minute the brilliant Christoph Waltz appears on screen.

If there is one reason – scenery aside – to see the film, it's Christoph Waltz. His character isn't a million miles from his villainous roles in Inglourious Basterds and The Green Hornet but he's such a wonderfully charming yet menacing screen presence it's hard to complain. Indeed, earlier portions of the film hinted towards his character being fairly complex and more morally ambiguous but, unfortunately, he is soon reduced to a more purely evil, moustache-twirling baddie to allow for the conventional forbidden love story to play out as neatly as possible.

But then, that right there, is the problem with the film in general: it never allows its run-of-the-mill storyline to ever live up to the complicated and intriguing world in which it is set.


 

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Hard to Get

2014-08-22 10:14

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(Comments may be edited or deleted at the Channel24 editors’ discretion)
joy 4/14/2011 1:55 PM
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I love Rob's acting it is quite an improvement from Twilight
centurion 4/15/2011 12:09 AM
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Ilan Preskovsky, first of all, you need to review Rob based on the character Jacob, who is basically the everyman in this movie. He's an innocent virgin, an idealist, who just happens to lose everything and wound up in the circus and fell hopelessly in love with Marlena. Of course, Christoph's performance would shine, August is the showy character and he's brilliant in it. But to write off Rob's Jacob is unfair because you don't need to ham it up in scenes in order to bring the subtle and nuanced portrayal that is needed for a character like Jacob.
Isabel 4/15/2011 12:22 AM
Uhm..the plot should not have been a surprise...it IS based on a best selling book..so anyone going into the film, will know exactly what the film is based on if they have taken the time to read the source material.
Jefferson Cody 4/17/2011 4:13 PM
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I rate it a disappointing 6 out of 10. Pattinson is nice looking, but he sure isn't much of an actor, and Reese Witherspoon is miscast. It's hardly the intimate epic romantic epic I was hoping to see. The characters are badly developed and Pattinson and Witherspoon don't have much erotic or romantic chemistry. Teenagers will probably like it, though. And it has a good trailer. I'm not surprised, 20 Century Fox are holding it back from US critics (and opening it in a few smaller territories before the States) as long as possible. It ain't going to be getting great reviews. Not that this will put off the youngsters it is aimed at. Just wish they hadn't dumbed-down the narrative too such a degree. After seeing the trailer, I expected so much more. Good trailer, though.
OCD 4/17/2011 10:26 PM
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I enjoyed this movie ~ the book had a lot more detail but the film's age restriction of 13V meant that a lot was left out. I think Robert Pattinson is flexing his acting abilities and we'll see a lot more of him in future.
OCD 4/17/2011 10:27 PM
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I enjoyed this movie ~ the book had a lot more detail but the film's age restriction of 13V meant that a lot was left out. I think Robert Pattinson is flexing his acting abilities and we'll see a lot more of him in future.
Sia 4/19/2011 1:13 PM
Well what's new he ruined Edward from Twilight too ! And it doesn't matter who you put up against Christop he's just amazing. I think Rob can act but I don't think he's received the material that will let him shine. Breaking Dawn will do that for Kristen Stewart from what I've heard.
Tsotso 4/20/2011 3:01 PM
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Water for Elephants ~ Okay as I mentioned earlier, my bestie went to see a pre-screening of WFE. This is a highly anticipated movie and most of the buzz has centered around Christolph Waltz and Reese. Waltz made such an impression of epic proportions in Inglourious Basterds that film critics and insiders were salivating at what he would do next. Reese hasn’t made a good movie since Walk the Line so people were hoping she would turn that around with this movie. Now Rob fans (of which I consider myself)may want to close your eyes at the next part. My friend has heard both in and out of the theater that certain critics were incredulous that 2 Oscar winning caliber actors would be second fiddle to that “vampire pretty boy”. (Don’t you HATE when they say rubbish like that??) Now you can reopen your eyes. They didn’t feel that way when they left the theater. Rob carried his own weight in every scene. He played Jacob with a gentleness complete with such raw emotion you felt for him. This wasn’t sexy vampire Rob or angst-ridden Tyler Rob. This Rob is one you want to take home, tuck him into bed with a teddy bear complete with a warm glass of milk. This was a young man on a spiritual journey trying to connect with people and find a new family, which he does with the travelling circus. As we already know, he becomes fascinated then falls in love with Marlena (Reese). However, the almost more interesting aspect to watch is his attachment to the animals and the love he has for them, especially Rosie. He is the gentle caretaker, while August is sadistic and cruel. In one particular scene, which will make you cry, is Rob’s emotional response to watching August hit Rosie. Bestie was overcome with emotion he couldn’t even describe it. Rob barely said a word, but the emotion on his face was brilliant. We have all read the book. There are of course some Gruen enthusiasts who will complain thet some scenes they deem as having core value aren’t in the movie, but that always happens doesn’t it? The movie is edited excellently he says. The movie is visually stunning and the photography and lighting superb. Bestie tells me that if this film doesn’t get an Oscar nod for Best Art Direction and/or Best cinematography he will take a dump in front of Mann’s Chinese. Howard’s score isn’t the best he has heard, but flows well with the film. Acting ~ Waltz: Waltz basically reprises his role from Basterds. I don’t believe there has been a more apt villain. He IS a scene stealer….larger than life in almost every scene. Hopefully he doesn’t mind playing a villain for the rest of his career, because he is on that train. In real life he is the sweetest guy imaginable. Witherspoon: Reese is a great actress, but there is a tiny bit of whiplash going on here. In some scenes she plays this tough broad from the wrong side of the tracks and in others, she reverts back to her normal sugary America’s sweetheart self. Her chemistry with Pattinson is good and she always looks stunning. Pattz: He may not be the best actor or have the best street-cred in the world YET , but he has gone leaps and bounds from where he started out when he walked into Hardwicke’s bedroom. (Me: It is rather difficult to do a great acting job when you are required to play a stiff and emotionless vampire. Not to say he doesn’t realise he owes all what he has now because of the role of Edward) He does a great job in this movie. That is the best I can sum it up for you. He is taking on challenging roles that push the envelope. They may not be blockbusters (Twi series, WFE aside), but they will be able to demonstrate his acting ability even further. Let’s just say insiders will be calling him because of his ability to act soon and not because his popularity could draw in more audience viewers. The two best additions besides the core cast? Hal Holbrook and Tai. Holbrook plays older Jacob with the expertise only an actor of his capacity could do. Tai may as well be human. All in all I think we will be seeing at LEAST 3 stars and two thumbs up. now this is a proper review from spunk-ransom.com/robert pattinson
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