Robert Pattinson has quickly become a box office "sure thing". The actor broke out as the star of the Twilight Saga and became a success overnight. Enter director Francis Lawrence and the bestselling book Water for Elephants. Lawrence has a unique style and the book has a very intriguing story. However, recreating the tone of a novel on the big screen is a challenge inside of itself. 20th Century Fox signed on Pattinson and his co-star Reese Witherspoon and accepted the challenge.
Water For Elephants is a story told in flashback. The film centers around Jacob Jankowski (Pattinson) who, just prior to finishing up a Veterinarian degree at Cornell, loses his parents in a car accident. When the bank claims possession of his home, he quickly transforms from a promising young student into a struggling man with no future. Seeing that he's trapped in the midst of the depression, Jacob ends up gladly taking a job on a traveling circus. Everything is going quite well for the young man until he falls for the ruthless owner's wife Marlena (Witherspoon). Desperate to create a better life for himself and the woman he loves, Jacob must pry her from the clutches of her villainous husband.
Make no mistake about it, Water for Elephants is a full blown love story. Filmed with a very nostalgic approach, the cinematography is wonderful. The director does a fantastic job creating the ambiance, however, there are many negatives to the film. Despite being wonderfully shot, Water for Elephants has a difficult time capturing the audience's attention. While viewing the film you'll be enthralled by some of the scenes with the animals and the circus, but when it comes to the film's love story, you will throw in the towel early.
Pattinson and Witherspoon lack the on screen chemistry necessary to convince the audience. Obviously this is quite essential for a film that's predominantly a tale of love. Although, blame cannot be solely placed on the actors. The story develops slowly and it is more than halfway into the film before their romance begins to blossom. But by this point, the audience has already been lost.
Even though Water for Elephants has more than a fair share of flaws, one shining star emerges. Christoph Waltz, who won an Academy Award for his work in Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds, is remarkable as the antagonist in the film. He perfectly portrays August, a devious entrepreneur desperate to once again bring his circus to the forefront of traveling entertainment. Waltz serves up a devilish combination of charm and anger, all of which inevitably elevate his performance.
Water for Elephants is by no means a terrible film. It managed to keep my attention for the full two hours. However, the love story in which the film centers around is mediocre at best. Perhaps two different leads would have done the movie some justice. Ultimately though, the film ends up falling short of expectations.