Water For Elephants (Film)

06/05/2011 at 8:31 AM (Action, Historical, Movies, Romance) (, , , , , , , , , )

Water for Elephants – based on the novel by Sara Gruen – is a film typical of old Hollywood and is reminiscent of the film fare from the 1930s. It starts out with an older Jacob Jankoski (Hal Holbrook) who has escaped the confines of his retirement home when his son forgot a due visit. So we see him approach a circus and talk to the ticket seller who first sees him as a nuisance. But when he begins to tell the tale of how he joined the circus as a young boy, the narrative captivates his audience of one.

We learn how Jacob (Robert Pattinson) was left penniless as a young Cornell college student. His aspirations of becoming a vet are cut short until by coincidence he ends up as a stowaway on the train carrying the Benzini circus. Pattinson actually does a good job in this movie by shovelling manure, feeding lions and diagnosing illness in circus animals – you can almost forget he is also the sparkly vampire heart-throb of teenage fans. Jacob is first treated with some respect by the circus master because of his education but after witnessing the cruelty his employer inflicts on a young elephant with a bull hook, the initial bit of camaraderie between them fizzles. His boss, August (Christoph Waltz) is of unpredictable temper, which can sometimes be very violent and tends to make everyone deferential towards him; this includes his young and beautiful wife, Marlena (Reese Witherspoon) of Marilyn Monroe-esque locks whom he regards as his star attraction.

Water for Elephants Movie Poster

So when Jacob falls in love with Marlena, it creates a dangerous situation for both of them. August is a commanding man capable of terrible cruelty to the animals, to his employees and even to his wife. The representation of the Great Depression and the impact that it had on the circus was beautifully conveyed through period costumes, mood lighting and the overall atmosphere of chaos. In my opinion, I felt the husband and wife shared more chemistry than the wife and her lover. Most of Jacob’s chemistry seemed to be directed toward Rosie (Tai), the elephant. Also, while Reese Witherspoon seems to have improved from her role in How Do You Know, Marlena still seemed lacklustre perhaps because they did not give her enough depth as a character ; it was as if she was a pretty face who could do some stunts but is only a possession. So when Jacob has Marlena run away with him, he realises August will not rest until he has his vengeance. Being a little careless about where they stay allows Marlena to be taken away from him after thugs loyal to August give him a hiding. So he carefully plans a way to return and release Marlena from her brute of a husband.

It will suffice to say this strategy of his meets with some complications along the way but Jacob ultimately achieves his goal. Directed by Francis Lawrence whose previous directing credits include I am Legend and Constantine, here you have a film that relies heavily on mood and setting instead of CG rendering and special effects.

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How Do You Know

02/10/2011 at 11:30 AM (Movies, Romantic Comedy, Uncategorized) (, , , , )

I love Reese Witherspoon as an actress. She is a lady of many versatile talents as can be demonstrated through her career in film. Just Like Heaven, Legally Blonde, Vanity Fair and The Importance of being Earnest are all part of her resume. But then I was invited to watch How Do You Know. Now I wish I had saved it for Black Swan instead because watching this movie that could have been resolved in the space of half an hour had me endure it with stiff muscles for two whole hours!

How Do You Know poster

There is nothing wrong with chick flicks and they are generally predictable but this film had absolutely nothing new in it to recommend it. Reese, what are you doing by putting this nasty blot on that magnificent CV of yours? In the movie, her character Lisa suffers a mid-life crisis after being cut from the USA softball team. In the middle of this, she is caught between a love triangle between a corporate guy who is framed as guilty of an act he did not commit and her baseball playing beau who is beginning to think that Lisa might possibly be the woman he is meant to be with. The lives of three intermingle in coincidental circumstances and makes significant changes in their relationships with each other. James L. Brooks, the director of the film ( yes, the very same responsible for The Simpsons) has infused it with witty dialogue to be sure but for me, it was more fun to listen to because of the good scripting rather than to watch due to poor film editing.

Kathryn Hahn as Emily the pregnant secretary, stands out far more than the main actors and the re-enactment of a proposal to not propose between her and her baby’s father steals the thunder from the stand by leading roles. The conversation within the film sometimes gets a little verbose and it seems this was aiming for a higher potential of humour but failed to fully make it. This is a case of a lost storyline with intelligence behind it that just required a better way of execution.

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