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|Index||269 reviews in total|
Saw this without knowing the animal training controversy, and found
myself feeling embarrassed for the actors to have to perform such a
typical, albeit poorly written and directed "love triangle" type
screenplay. In spite of the fact that both Robert Pattinson's character
(young newcomer to the circus) and Reese Witherspoon's character (wife
of sadistic, domineering owner of the circus) know full well that
Christoph Waltz's character (said sadistic, domineering owner) is
volatile and merciless, they flash looks back and forth and whisper in
each other's ears in his presence. Couple that with Pattison's
performance which is less animated than a 2x4 pine board, and you've
got one very predictable, and colossal waste of time on your hands.
Oh, and one can just imagine the director saying to Christoph Waltz, "Chris, baby, I just loved you in Inglorious Basterds! Just give exactly the same guy. It won awards the first time, didn't it?".
I can see that some people enjoyed this movie quite a lot. I can tell
you that I didn't. And there are reasons for that. I don't think the
fact, I hadn't read the novel plays into that. In fact I still haven't
read "The Notebook" and I consider that as one of the best movies
period (and maybe the best "romantic" drama, if you wanna call it that,
ever. For some at least).
Problem is maybe that I got spoiled with Notebook. And the structure of this movie reminds one of the Notebook. Not step by step, but the overall picture (forgive the pun). And it looses every one of those comparisons. While Reese Witherspoon tries hard and is the best of the leading trio, all the actors seem to be pigeonholed into a cliché. Christoph Waltz is a great actor, but seeing him in this you wouldn't really come to that conclusion. He plays his villain with Gusto (and cherishes in the dark moments), but in-between something is missing. There might be some nice additions in the bit player department (Ken Foree of "Dawn of the Dead" fame comes to mind), but overall it's not only something you've seen, but is played by the numbers, not raising the level of emotion, that I'm sure the book/novel did.
There may be a few spoilers in here..sorry! I absolutely hated this
movie...I read the book and the same night I finished reading it I ran
out and got the movie..from the very beginning the movie starts off not
following the book.
They excluded "big al" from the movie who in the book was actually the guy that owned the train not August, and Walter and Camel and Jacob didn't all become such great friends so quickly...Jacob and Marlena never get caught in the hotel together and Walter actually made it thru being "redlighted" he just got left behind, there is soooooooo much detail missing from the movie it makes this movie and hard to watch after such a great book.
I can not believe the author would let this happen to his book..had I seen the movie before I read the book I would have never read the book! I think someone got Cliff notes and wrote the screenplay..now I know how stupid my high school book reports must have been after only reading tid-bits!
The best acting in this movie was the elephant's role...and he got tortured to perform. The viewers got tortured watching this slow-moving, poorly-acted film. I read the book and surprisingly, this movie closely follows the book. However, the book provided characters with chemistry between/among them. Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattinson have no chemistry...period. They seem to be sleep-walking throughout the scenes...including the romantic scene, which is so dark that even a good imagination can't help it. Christoph Waltz has an accent that interferes with his English. After 2 hours, I began to understand his sentences. An Oscar should go to the elephant. Forget the rest of the actors.
Now where do I start on this 'timeless love-story?' Let's start with the title. This has to be the most inappropriate title in the history of cinema. The title has nothing to do with the story, which is primarily a love story, but the title tricks you into thinking that it is not. Sara Gruen who has written the novel 'Water for Elephants' credits someone else in her book for coming up with this title. I'd say she should have used her own discretion. Now coming to the movie, and as a fan of both Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattinson, I'd have to sadly accept that this movie doesn't justify an iota of their talent. There is just no chemistry between the two an essential quality for a love story. On the other hand there is Christoph Waltz, who is absolutely brilliant throughout the movie. He, in fact, is the sole reason that this movie is watchable. Take him out of the equation and you have a dud on your hands. The love story is too weak to make you feel any passion. The main character, Jacob, at times, comes across as a spineless individual who eventually has lived an adventurous and successful life with all that he ever wanted, and still finds something to complain about. The story, beyond all comprehension, is not as dramatic as it was intended.
This is well made and wonderfully produced kitsch. It's source may be a
well written novel but the film is a confection worthy of a low brow
book club. What dazzles the eye is the core of the problem and its
inauthenticity and a sugar coated niceness that yields to stale
First is the structure with the nice old man narrating his story and a bit of history. This technique is a cliché and since 'Titanic' did it in 1997 seems to be only way of serving up the past to audiences. Second is the overpowering need to show this as grand cinema which is exemplified in one shot early on of two men scaling and then walking along the train carriages which will look stupendous on a wide screen but is not right for this story which is not about grand gestures, not in that way at least.
The third and most compelling lack of authenticity is the style and portrayal of the circus which is tough but not too nasty. Compare it with 'Nightmare Alley' from 1947. That is a circus story in tough times (and also contains an intriguing use of the word 'geek' for a rummy who is really on his downers) and compare it with the niceness of ladies' book club of this concoction and it is clear.
In a cognate way it's like watching smokers in an old film and in today's movies ( whether it's a period movie or not) where few people actually smoke so when they hold a cigarette their expression and then how they pucker to smoke the thing shows their awkwardness, that they do not smoke; or there is a cutaway shot in order not show it, or another contractual obligation that smoking cannot be shown to endanger the actor. While no one wants to see smoking an audience deserves authentic action, however, if its part of the story. Filmmakers have to get it right.
In a sense one source of the problem is the casting of Robert Pattinson who is a callow screen presence, nice, not too dangerous and 'kinda cute'. Tyrone Power's performance in 'Nightmare Alley' makes it work, because he is handsome and lethal.
Essentially this lack of genuine essence makes the Depression sad, but not too depressing; the circus life, tough, but not too cruel and with lovable characters. As such the story falls into a predictable heap as it's quite obvious how it must go because it takes no risks, it has removed all the jagged and true edges that make a story of this type worth telling. And the ending is saccharine as the old man completes the story and the audience can all go 'aaahh', collectively at the full circle of his life.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Well, this film would be thousand times better if it we didn't have to
remember every 10 minutes this is Hollywood. There are many plot holes
that automatically remember us that this is a film, like when Jacob
talked in that language to the elephant. Where did he get those lines
from? How did he know how to speak that? Since when do elephants
understand languages? How Jacob got back in the train? And how those
guys invaded the hotel, didn't it have security, lock or anything?
The film is greatly photographed, with authentic and professional acting from all the cast (except for the unexpressive Robert Pattinson), but these things aren't enough to save the whole thing. The story is well developed with some little surprises, but the script is too weak to really satisfy me. Not to mention that I didn't believe Marlena and Jacob's love, thought the actors tried their best to make it work. I'm still giving it a 7 because it's very entertaining and the story is not repeated as in many 2011's films. See this film without commitment and criticizing feelings and you will probably have a good time...
After an hour of travelling and another hour or so of awkwardness, I
can safely say that this movie was worth it. Let's just ignore the fact
that I watched the movie alone because I really have nothing to do with
my life, and let's focus on the fact that hey, Robert Pattinson can act
and that Christoph Waltz is just a spectacular actor.
But of course, like in every movie, they include something in order to work the audience up and remain under the movie's spell. The objects (in this case, an elephant), though they play a very small part, are used as a a sort of sub-plot to give a twist to a cliché storyline. I mean, it wasn't that bad, with a whole circus themed tale of two star crossed lovers, but it was based on the same thing: A woman cheats on her husband with a charming young intern who woos her with his mysteriousness and slight awkwardness. To be frank, the plot was extremely boring, there were barely any twists and my thoughts were frequently shifted over to my screaming bladder.
Let's not focus on the storyline, but rather, on the acting in this movie. I've never fully respected Pattinson enough as an actor, considering he looks constipated or in pain half the time. This movie showed a slightly different side to him. Maybe he actually can play roles outside of a mysterious, introverted and slightly violent character (references to Remember Me and The Twilight movies). He proves everyone wrong by playing a rather romantic guy, with a heart of gold. Not as openly as I would hope, and still violent and impulsive, but still a sweet guy. I have to admit, I'm not that impressed with what Reese Witherspoon had to offer. Sure, she managed to portray her character believably, but I didn't feel as entranced by her character like I did in her other movies. This character had the potential to be played in a very captivating manner; I mean, she is after all, a star attraction and a woman who is trapped in a forbidden romance with the faeces shoveler. Surely she has a lot more emotions that can be played with.
Of course, I've saved the best for the last; Christoph Waltz. I was immensely impressed by his performance, he plays his character so well that you forget that maybe he isn't like that in real life. Once he's on screen, it's as if no one else is present. He has such great presence that he commands attention the second he's in the shot. Waltz makes the character so enchanting, that it's so easy to hate him but love him at the same time. August's sick humour and his impatience and heartlessness, accompanied by Waltz's amazing rendition of this nasty man made him my favourite character in the entire film, despite his obvious loathing for anything other than him and his wife. Looks like I'll be catching Inglorious Basterds soon.
Overall, this movie wasn't that spectacular. Sure, it kept me interested long enough, but it probably won't be one I'll be remembering. Tales of classic romances like this is just too cliché for my liking. I'd give it a 6/10. Still, two thumbs up for Waltz's amazing acting.
Well, this movie has all the classic elements of film noir: the femme
fatale, a man with incredibly bad luck or karma, the homo-erotic
tension between two men, bleak cinematography. The problem is it also
wants to have an artificial Hollywood happy ending on it and that
ruined it for me. That and the bookending of the story as a flashback
is about the oldest and hackneyed scheme of a plot.
Still I gave it a very high rating for the nuanced performances of the three leads, despite a large proportion of simulated animal cruelty, which did not sit well with me. Reese Witherspoon delivers a fine performance, but Robert Pattinson as the head of the circus fails to deliver on why he is damaged goods although he clearly has a cruel past. His character is either happy, angry, contrite, or depressed depending on what is needed to finish the scene.
Jacob Jankowski is an aspiring trainee veterinarian at the prestigious
Cornell US University during the depression.
Abruptly torn from his studies he quite literally, albeit unintentionally, runs off to join the circus.
The story is told in flashback by the 90 year Jacob (Hal Holbrook), recounting his story which segues into Jacob as a young man (Robert Pattinson).
The Benzini Brothers circus is exciting, rough, brutal and desperate for money. Preying on the abandoned remains of other circuses that failed to attract an audience.
The whole travelling troupe are governed by the less than benevolent ringmaster, in every sense of the word, August (Christopher Waltz). One of the star attractions also happens to be his wife, the bare back horse riding Mariena (Reece Witherspoon).
Jacob's veterinary skills are soon uncovered, used and then boasted as a badge of honour by August, his constant desire to beat other circuses even extending to a full time Ivy League Vet.
The circus is pulled from town to town on a very cinematically filmed train, well illustrated by a beautifully played scene atop the train. Punters are fooled, amazed and generally relieved of any spare cash they have, before the whole enterprise pulls up tent pegs and moves on.
This is set during the depression, the animals are looked after little better than the humans who may be tossed from the train at any time, if the wage bill needs a little trimming.
This is at heart a love story and whilst the leads are effective and Pattinson, probably enjoying not looking pale for a while, does not let the side down in this post Twilight starring role. However, there is little chemistry on display with Mariena and even the many animal scenes, curiously leave you emotionally disengaged.
The period setting is fun to watch and it is clear that Waltz's recent Oscar win for "Inglorious Basterd's" was no fluke. He again scorches the screen in every scene, displaying another well dressed psychopath who can be charming one moment and chillingly murderous the next. Compared to the other performers, his characterization holds the film together and demands audiences attention.
Witherspoon clearly has learn't some performing tricks and does well but seems more alive and believable whenever Waltz shares the screen. There are short periods where the story flags but it's difficult to dislike any film with a performing circus elephant (Rosie) for too long.
The reality of the times and struggle to live, for everyone, animals, circus and staff alike, is intriguing and the suggestion of a more innocent townsfolk, is neatly evoked. In the Internet age, a few tigers, lions, clowns and even the performing elephant, would not be enough to hold many children's attention for long.
Based on the book by Sarah Gruen
A romantic historical circus drama, formulaic in places but enjoyable enough entertainment with another winning performance by Waltz.
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