Here’s a stunning revelation – Robert Pattinson can act. His talent was buried deeply in the mountain of terrible movie making which was the Twilight series, but it’s true. If that wasn’t enough of a shocker, here’s another – he’s also capable of having a complexion besides pasty albino. His latest film, Water for Elephants, needs to win some sort of award for proving those two tidbits true, as well as one for just being a cinematic masterpiece.
Pattinson plays Jacob (yes, Edward is Jacob, everyone laugh, oh how funny), the son of Polish immigrants during the 1930’s Depression. While he’s in college, the clichéd tragedy strikes when his parents are killed in a car crash and he ends up penniless and just short of a diploma. He ends up on a circus train where they just so happen to be in need of his skills, since the star attraction and owners wife Marlena (Reese Witherspoon, Monsters Vs. Aliens) uses horses in her act.
The circus then gets their hands on an elephant and Witherspoon’s husband August (Christopher Waltz, The Green Hornet) decides to make Witherspoon ride it for a new act. Pattinson and Witherspoon start making doe eyes at each other all while trying to train an elephant and hide from Waltz, who happens to be evil.
The old fashioned circus setting for the film is one of the best period settings seen in years. It gives this ever-changing picture of the circus before pyrotechnics and stupid light shows, capturing the romance of the period like no other film does. It then slams right back down to reality like a circus train into a mountain when it shows that this was a time before PITA and worker’s rights.
Lions and tigers with missing teeth and men being thrown off a moving train as part of a downsizing effort make for some pretty brutal effects. Waltz is no angel either, since he’s the one instigating all of the pain, almost to super villain levels.
The centerpiece of the film is of course Witherspoon and Pattinson, and it couldn’t have been better executed with an electric chair. In the waste of time known as Twilight, Pattinson and Kristen Stewart acted like two people who would’ve rather been anywhere else on earth than together. In perfect opposition, Pattinson and Witherspoon are like flint and steel. Sparks can’t help but fly with them together. There is a scene with both characters dancing together in a speak easy and the internal struggle between desire and ticking off the freak husband with henchmen plays across their faces beautifully. It’s perfect.
Water for Elephants is one of the few and far between movies where everything comes together to make a really spectacular work. It’s a well-imagined romance with a classic plot that, when done right, shows that it’s a classic for a reason. Go out and see it because it truly is one of the reasons they call film an art. Plus nobody sparkles.
Water for Elephants is rated PG-13 for some language and showing some pretty sad animal abuse.