Water for Elephants (2011)
Frequently Asked Questions
When Charlie O'Brien (Paul Schneider), the owner/operator of the Circus Vargas, finds an elderly man (Hal Holbrook) wandering on the circus grounds, he attempts to return him to his nursing home. In the meantime, he learns that the old man is Jacob Jankowski (Robert Pattinson), a veterinarian who once worked with the doomed Benzini Brothers Circus in 1931. Charlie invites Jacob to tell him about his experience with Benzini, so Jacob relates the story of how, after the death of his parents when he was 23 years old, he dropped out of his veterinary studies at Cornell University and landed a job with the Benzini Circus, where he worked as an animal doctor and trainer of Rosie, a 53-year-old elephant. Things become complicated for him when he falls in love with performer Marlena Rosenbluth (Reese Witherspoon), the wife of cruel and jealous ringmaster August Rosenbluth (Christoph Waltz).
Water for Elephants is a 2006 novel by Canadian/American author Sara Gruen. The novel was adapted for the movie by American screenwriter Richard LaGravenese.
The matinée performance opens as usual with Marlena riding on Rosie. The plan is to run away with Jacob after the first act, because August won't notice that Marlena is missing until after act two. In the middle of her performance, however, everyone is startled when the other performers, all fed up with August's brutality, release the lions, tigers, and other animals into the jam-packed bigtop. Jacob goes looking for Marlena but is tackled by August. Marlena picks up the bull hook and hits August with it, but August grabs the hook and tries to suffocate Marlena by hold it against her neck. Lying on the ground, bloodied and beaten, Jacob calls out to Rosie. Seeming to understand what is happening, Rosie pulls out her stake and bashes August's head with it. In the epilogue, old Jacob tells how the Benzini Circus went belly-up, he finished his veterinary degree, married Marlena, and took Rosie and the horses to live with them and their five kids. In the final scene, old Jacob asks whether Charlie will give him a job. Charlie chuckles over the fact that Jacob will be the oldest person to run away and join the circus. Jacob replies, "I'm not running away...I'm coming home." The film ends with a black-and-white montage of Jacob and Marlena's life together.