I’ve always hated circuses. Wouldn’t cover them on TV for 25 years. It’s not just the confined and lonely animals, it’s whatever darkness and sadness is under all that makeup… BUT I really enjoyed WATER FOR ELEPHANTS–maybe because it didn’t hide the darkness, and somehow still captured the magic that circuses promise: exotic beauty and fantastical feats, romance and escape.
Robert Pattinson is no vampire here—he’s very moving as Jacob Jankowski a lonely young veterinary student fresh from a family tragedy who is left searching for a life. He is instantly drawn to the luminous Marlena played by the porcelain-skinned Reese Witherspoon, sad beneath her radiance and imprisoned by a brutish husband played by the threatening Christoph Waltz. Jacob and Marlena meet over a wounded animal and it connects them as they tenderly begin to yearn for one another. Every shot of them in this illusory world is bathed in golden light– the kind saved for flashbacks. I’m sorry to say I felt the hot flashback coming on within the first five minutes and I wish it hadn’t felt so trite. And the plot strains– why would a young man quit Cornell, denying himself the fruits of an Ivy League education and run off to join a circus in the middle of the depression– especially when his parents gave everything they had so he could go to college? Finally the ending rushes too quickly toward conclusion– or maybe I just didn’t want it to end.
But the middle, the glorious middle, takes its time as these two lovely creatures slowly unfold to one another. Pattinson and Witherspoon generate real romantic heat and catch you up in their dream. Best of all, they discover an elephant who understands Polish! I loved this. I’m Polish and tomorrow is Easter and I just finished decorating and coloring eggs with hot wax and the head of a pin, just the way my babcia did over a 1oo years ago, and her grandmother, and so on. I guess I’m having a bit of a flashback myself, and dreaming of chocolate for bunnies…
–not to mention WATER FOR ELEPHANTS. See this!