‘Water for Elephants’ remains true to award-winning novel

By Rachael Renz
April 24, 2011

Robert Pattinson successfully breaks from his vampire persona and instead plays the troubled and lovesick Jacob Jankowski.

The much-anticipated film, “Water for Elephants,” was released on Friday, April 22, approximately five years after the No.1 New York Times best-seller by Sara Gruen was published.

The novel, which was rated a best-seller by other publications and voted favorite book of 2006, is a love story while simultaneously adding a sense of historical adventure. This story is not only endearing but is also original and unique. Watching or reading a dramatic love story that takes place on a moving train, housing an overabundance of animals and people is anything but cliche.

The main character, Jacob Jankowski played by Robert Pattinson, is about to graduate from Cornell University at the age of 23. He arrived to class one morning, about to take his final exam, when he is told that both of his parents were in a fatal car accident. Jankowski ends up not completing the exam and rushes home.

But this isn’t the only obstacle Jankowski faces. During this time, the prohibition and Great Depression were in full swing. Jankowski ended up losing his parents, his fathers’ veterinary practice and his home because his parents were in debt from paying for his education.

Jankowski felt he had no other choice but to run, so he packed a suitcase and never looked back. After walking for miles on train tracks, he heard a train nearing his direction. Jankowski decided to jump on the train and hoped it would take him far.

This is when Jankowski and Marlena, played by Reese Witherspoon, story begins. The train Jankowski jumped on ended up being the “Benzini Brother’s Most Spectacular Show on Earth,” otherwise known as one of the most popular traveling circuses. Because of his veterinary skills, Jankowski is hired for $9 a week as the circus’ veterinarian. It just so happens that Marlena, a beautiful performer who is the No. 1 act with her horse show, works side by side with Jankowski.

Jankowski and Marlena end up spending a lot of time with each other, tending to her beloved horses and teaching Rosie, the show’s new elephant, tricks. The two end up falling in love, but Marlena’s husband August, played by Christoph Waltz, is the boss and a dangerous man known for throwing men off the moving train and beating animals.

The basis of the rest of the movie and book is living with a traveling circus, hiding a relationship, taking care of the animals and avoiding August at all costs.

Witherspoon and Pattinson have an undeniable chemistry on screen that was filled with love and fear. Both complimented each other well, but I cannot give full credit to them. Waltz, who is otherwise known for his character Hans Landa in “Inglourious Bastards,” shocks audiences again with his brooding anger and violent behavior.

The trio’s relationship left me in awe. Each of their performances were impeccable and the outcome from each relationship was memorable in both the book and film.

Not only was the acting wonderful, but the fashion was admirable as well. The film, set in the 30’s, commonly used three-piece suits and fashionable dresses. The performers also sported very detailed costumes, the women wearing small clothing with sequins and the men wearing velvet suits.

Although Pattinson has starred in several other films, his role in “Water for Elephants” has finally broken him from the “Twilight” stigma that has been hovering over his career for the past three years. I am extremely eager to see what his next move will be, that is, after the “Twilight” saga is complete.

As for Witherspoon, her work never ceases to amaze me. Her talent shined through as she played Marlena and I wouldn’t be surprised if she is a nominee for an Oscar in the future.

“Water for Elephants” grossed over $16.8 million its opening weekend and has earned the No. 3 spot in the box office, because not only did Sara Gruen write a fantastic novel, but the wonderfully chosen cast and crew also did justice to Gruen’s work of art.



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Rachael Renz

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