|Still from Water for Elephants|
Jacob (Robert Pattinson) is a Veterinary student at Cornell University who takes up an assignment with the Benzini Brothers' Most Spectacular Show on Earth during the Great Depression. Among those Animals under his care are Rosie the Elephant (Tai), who is deemed untrainable until Jacob taps into her full potential essentially saving the floundering Circus from demise.
It is at the Circus where Jacob meets and becomes enamored with a beautiful and translucent-skinned Marlena (Reese Witherspoon), the Star of the Show. Marlena however, is married to volatile and abusive Animal Trainer August (Christoph Waltz).
Jacob and Marlena work closely together with Rosie and along the way, they find their attraction to one another insuppressible. As passions flare, August becomes suspicious of his Wife's loyalties and we wonder whether Marlena, Jacob, the Circus Performers and Rosie will be able to escape August's wrath before he destroys them all.
Based upon the best-selling Novel by Canada's Sara Gruen and directed by Francis Lawrence, Water for Elephants actually surpassed all my expectations. Lawrence strikes a fine balance here, making this Adaptation equally suspenseful as it is a Love Story. Masterfully, he keeps the Pot at a simmer, offering small jolts of heat until everything culminates in a fiery Boiling Point.
Despite my not being a Fan of the Twilight Franchise, Pattinson I found was cast perfectly for his role - awkward, soft-spoken and altogether relatable as we share his perspective as an Outsider looking in on an inevitable Catastrophe. Witherspoon who seriously needed a break after a lackluster turn in commercial and critical failure How Do You Know?, redeems herself easily switching convincingly from a faithful Wife to a white-hot Seductress to Jacob. Quite possibly the most demanding role of her career, it is encouraging to see her challenge herself both physically and emotionally. The true Star though (other than Tai the Elephant) is the incomparable Waltz as the jealous Maharaja - scary and volatile. You will not be able to keep your eyes off of him.
You don't have to be an Animal Lover or a Fan of Romance to love Water for Elephants, although it didn't hurt that I happen to enjoy both. 20th Century Fox releases the Tearjerker Friday, April 22, 2011 nationwide. Grade: A