Sunday 30 October 2011

Movie Review: Water for Elephants

We were honored to be asked by Fox Entertainment to do a movie review of Water For Elephants starring Rob Pattinson, Reese Witherspoon, and Christoph Waltz for the upcoming DVD/Blue-Ray release which will hit stores on November 1, 2011. Dark Readers teamed up with Good Choice Reading to review the Water for Elephants movie and compare it with the book written by Sara Gruen. 

Water for Elephants was set in the 1930s throughout the book we get a sense of what this era was like through details that Sara Gruen gives and the specific events that she chooses to tell. The Depression Era took a toll on most families; food, goods and money were hard to come by- this is shown when Jacob Jankowski is left nothing after his parents passed because it was owned by the bank. This scene in particular is also shown in the movie Water for Elephants, where Jacob Jankowski is played by Robert Pattinson. Throughout both the book and movie, it was obvious that there were ranks; even throughout the circus- it was give or take whether or not a circus worker would get paid, but during the Depression, being in the circus was better than wandering alone elsewhere.

During the movie, the first thing that caught our eyes was the flashy clothing that the women wore- those who went to watch the circus wore nice outfits- usually a skirt and blouse and adorned with accessories including gloves and hats. Men were know for wearing trousers and overalls- this was shown both in the movie and in the book. It was obvious in the movie what ranks people held by what they wore- this portrays the 1930s very well. 

"I don't know if I picked that circus. But something told me that circus picked me."- Jacob

Sara Gruen writes Water for Elephants from Jacob's point of view- it never came across while reading that is should have been written through Marlena's viewpoint. Both Jacob and Marlena have different upbringings, but eventually found the circus; Jacob was just beginning his life and then it all fell apart- Sara takes this character and is able to rewrite his future. It is a very powerful story. 

The movie was very close to the book as far as scenes go- we get right to the story in the movie. Whereas in the movie, older Jacob Jankowski is in the nursing home and reliving his memories of the circus. He finally gets to the circus as the end of the book. But in the movie, older Jacob is at the circus from the very beginning and his story begins. This panned out well- and made the movie flow well. The pace of the movie would have been choppy if they went along with the books back and forth layout.

Jacob: There are two Jacob's in Water for Elephants. We see an older Jacob who is played by Hal Holbrook and a younger Jacob who is played by Robert Pattinson. Both roles are portrayed exceptionally well. Hats off to Hal Holbrook who I think will steal every person's heart at his love and affection for his late wife Marlena. The emotion is intensified in the movie- as a longing and sadness whereas in the book it is a longing to be back at the circus. Rob plays a young man who is curious to be around the circus- this is all new and interesting. In the book Jacob is still saddened over the loss of his parents. So the emotional feelings are a tad different, but didn't change the pace of feel of the movie.

"You're a beautiful woman, you deserve a beautiful like. Nothing less"- Jacob

Reese Witherspoon plays Marlena, the circus' s best performer and the wife of  August. Marlena's character in the movie was "weaker" than book Marlena. She was terrified of what August would do to her, in both instances, but she came off as soft, which enhanced August's character personality to be more extreme. Marlena's clothes were beautiful and just as we imagined while reading.

The circus life isn't something that any of us were familiar with before reading Water for Elephants. So the description about how often circus' s crashed and were picked over shouldn't have been much of a surprise due to the era that this book and film were set in, but to most, circuses are filled with vibrant energy and fun, so this was a different take on circus life. And it was portrayed in both the book and the movie how difficult circus life was. 
Fantastic music! In the 1930's music was big- most people were trying their hardest to get by day after day and they used music to lighten the mood. Those who could afford parties used music as entertainment. Both of these were shown in the movie to make the setting feel naturally like the 1930s. Viewers can expect lots of jazz and instrumental pieces in Water for Elephants. 

"The world's run on tricks. Everyone plays."- August
 Christoph Waltz plays the villainous August, who in the movie is both the ring leader and Marlena's husband. This is one of the biggest book to movie differences because August was not the ring leader in the book, though he was an animal trainer. In the book both characters worked out well because they were equally complex and had their own roles, but in the movie, they made a good choice with combining these two and making one villain- it made the story simpler to follow. From previous movies, it is obvious that Christoph Waltz was the perfect choice for August- his character is controlling and manipulative; he nailed the roll of August!

Favorite book to movie scene has to be the interaction between Marlena, Jacob, and August- Marlena sets up champagne and a small gathering for her and August. Jacob was told to bring Rosie to Marlena's tent. August gets the wrong impression and all hell breaks loose. Emotionally and psychically, this scene was intense!! And played out just like the book.  

Books are always going to have more of a romantic feel to them- Sara Gruen is not skimpy when it comes to romantic details; words and a person's imagination has not boundaries, but movies can only go so far. So we believe that the romance was more "alive" in the book- but any viewer can feel the passion that both Jacob and Marlena have for each other throughout the movie.

There are always going to be differences between books to movies, but with Water for Elephants the differences are minor and the changes add simplicity to the storyline and create a dramatic climax in the film. Any reader of the book will not be disappointed with the changes that were made.




Witness The Epic Tale of Forbidden Love Starring
Academy Award® Winner Reese Witherspoon and
Robert Pattinson On Blu-ray and DVD November 1

Summary: Take a journey back in time with the romantic tale based on Sara Gruen’s New York Times #1 Best-Seller novel of the same name, WATER FOR ELEPHANTS, coming to Blu-ray and DVD on November 1st from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment.  Starring Academy Award®-winner Reese Witherspoon (Walk The Line), Robert Pattinson (Twilight series) and Oscar®-winner Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds), the film presents an epic tale of forbidden love in a magical place filled with adventure, wonder and great danger. Showcasing the decadence of a bohemian circus and the majesty of its animals against the backdrop and beauty of a bygone era, WATER FOR ELEPHANTS makes the ideal holiday gift idea for your favorite film buff, fashionista or book-lover!

Devastated by the sudden death of his parents at the height of The Depression, a young dreamer from the wrong side of the tracks, Jacob Jankowski (Pattinson), abandons his veterinary studies at Cornell University. With no other family, no house, and no money, Jacob stows away on a train carrying the circus performers of The Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth.  Hired as a veterinarian to care for the troupe’s animals, Jacob is temporarily filled with the promise of an exciting life that comes with a traveling circus troupe. However, as he builds a rapport and falls in love with the star of the show, Marlena (Witherspoon), they become prey to the circus’s owner, Marlena’s violent and abusive husband August (Waltz). As the circus begins to crumble from within and against all odds, Jacob and Marlena come together and fall in love through their compassion for a special elephant. With their love on the line, Jacob and Marlena come to a crossroads that will forever change their destiny.

Directed by critically-acclaimed filmmaker Francis Lawrence (Constantine), WATER FOR ELEPHANTS features fantastic supporting performances from Paul Schneider (Lars and the Real Girl), Jim Norton (Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets), Mark Povinelli (The Polar Express), Richard Brake (Batman Begins), and Academy Award®-nominee Hal Holbrook (Into the Wild).

WATER FOR ELEPHANTS Blu-ray + Digital Copy
  • Feature Film
  • Special Features
    • Robert Pattinson Spotlight
    • Feature Performer Reese Witherspoon
    • The Traveling Show: From Page to Screen 
    • Working Without A Net – The Visual Effects of Water for Elephants
    • The Star Attraction
    • Raising the Tent
    • Secrets of the Big Top
    • Audio Commentary with Director Francis Lawrence and Writer Richard LaGravenese
    • Theatrical Trailer
  • Live Extras
    • Exclusive: Stars of the Circus
    • Blu-ray Highlight: The Traveling Show: From Page to Screen
    • Theatrical Trailer
    • Live Lookup
    • Digital Copy
  • Feature Film
  • Special Features
    • Robert Pattinson Spotlight
    • Feature Performer Reese Witherspoon
    • The Traveling Show: From Page to Screen
    • Audio Commentary with Director Francis Lawrence and Writer Richard LaGravenese
    • Theatrical Trailer
  Thank you once again to FOX Entertainment for giving us this opportunity to review Water For Elephants- and don't forget to go out and pick up your copy of the WFE Blue-Ray / DVD on November 1st.


Kerry-Ann said...

Amazing Review!! I loved this film so much one of my favourites defo!! :) Ohh this review makes me want tow atch it again :)

Info site for New Zealand Kiwi fruit information website said...

Congratulations to Sara Gruen for filling the book with accurate details and appealing photographs; charming anecdotes; and for an overall a fascinating read.

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