Sunday, May 22, 2011

Water for Elephants (Rhoades)

“Water for Elephants” Is a Circus Memory

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

     D’you remember the boyhood excitement of the circus coming to town? The big tents blossoming in the meadow down by the river. A parade with elephants and caged lions and aerialists in spangled costumes marching down Main Street. The clowns handing out balloons to the crowds of children who lined the sidewalks.
     My heart still races at the memory.
     That sense of nostalgia returns to me in “Water for Elephants,” the romantic circus tale that’s come to town at the Tropic Cinema.
     I can almost smell the sawdust, hear the roar of the big cats, taste the popcorn. (Well, of course, I can taste the popcorn here at the movies. But you know what I mean about those childhood memories that revive all those sensory stimuli.)
     The story is told as a remembrance of a very old man (venerable Hal Holbrook), how as a boy he ran away to join the circus – the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. Being a veterinary school dropout, he’s put to caring for the animals. But his attention is drawn to the beautiful equestrian star of the Big Top. Ah, young love. If only she weren’t married to the possessive and twisted animal trainer.
     This love triangle surrounds an elephant named Rosie, who is considered untrainable until it’s discovered that she only follows commands in Polish.
     The young Jacob Jankowski is played by Robert Pattinson, last seen biting necks in “Twilight.” But here he’s a 23-year-old drifter who hopped a circus train. The object of his affections is Marlena, charmingly played by legally blonde Reese Witherspoon. And her ferocious husband August Rosenbluth is portrayed by Austrian-born actor Christoph Waltz.
     Witherspoon as you’ll recall won a Best Actress Academy Award for her performance in the Johnny Cash biopic “Walk the Line.” Waltz snagged a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds.” Robert Pattinson is adored by millions of teenage girls, not to mention Kristen Stewart. And Hal Holbrook will forever be Mark Twain in our minds.
     “Water for Elephants” is based on the New York Times Bestseller by Sara Gruen. She originally wrote the book as part of National Novel Writing Month, an annual internet-based creative writing contest that challenges entrants to write a new 50,000-word novel in one month. Guen’s book is loosely based on the Biblical story of Jacob from the Book of Genesis. It was her third novel.
     Also “Water for Elephants” is director Francis Lawrence’s third film (he gave us the comic-book-based “Constantine” and the sci-fi thriller “I Am Legend”). However, Lawrence is better known for his lyrical music videos featuring such performers as Lady Gaga, Black Eyed Peas, Janet Jackson, Britney Spears, Jennifer Lopez, Nine Inch Nails, and Beyoncé.
     “Water for Elephants” is mostly a love story. As Jacob says to Marlena, “You’re a beautiful woman, you deserve a beautiful life.”
     Ah, the memories of a 90-year-old man.
[from Solares Hill]

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