Water For Elephants - Cinema Review

'Pattinson has obviously been spending time at the Hayden Christensen school of acting'

A horribly staid and mawkish romance, Water For Elephants has a story which moves with all the pace and vigour of dripping tar and a plot which comes close to qualifying as a non-event. Francis Lawrence' drama might have the looks but it doesn't have the razzle or the dazzle. It is a film which lulls you into the world of depression era America but once it has you there, then only proceeds to lull you to sleep.

Central to the story (the term used here in the loosest sense) are Marlena (Reese Witherspoon), Jacob (Robert Pattinson) and August (Christoph Waltz), a trio who follow a predictable love triangle arc without any of the awkwardness or threat which that trope usually lends cinematic productions. August is a character whom it is easy to dislike; he's nasty to animals, rude to his employees and violent to his wife. But with all that Waltz never creates a truly terrifying villain. August is brittle and occasionally brutish but he's not someone you'd be afraid of if you met him in a dark alley on a late Saturday night.

Waltz's performance too almost lends the piece an uneven tone. There's no doubt that his is the best here but it's so out of line with Witherspoon and Pattinson's nauseating straight play that he sends every scene he's in out of whack with every scene where he doesn't put in an appearance. Pattinson and Witherspoon trot out lines which feel as vaudeville as the setting. Marlena's characterisation appears to start off down the 'strong independent woman' route but then reverses when the plot finds it convenient. Pattinson meanwhile has obviously been spending time at the Hayden Christensen school of acting, trying to display every emotion going on his rock-like face. Eyebrows quiver, nostrils twitch, cheeks rise. Emotion is never conveyed. The Pattinson on show here is a world away from the strong performance he put in in the flawed Remember Me.

As the two hour runtime creaks to an end with a groan of brakes that were applied several acts previously and a puff of exposition that startles in its inclusion, there's very little here that will stay with you longer than the trip to the car or the five steps to eject the DVD from the player. The crucial factor ends up being that the two lead characters have some chemistry but lack genuine romance, that facet instead left to the sets and production design, whose beauty is unmatched and therefore, sadly wasted.

Look further...

'incredibly moving and really a beautiful film' - Movie Critical, 8/10


  1. I have been humming and harring over whether I'd venture out and see this. I think Wlatz looks too type cast and I can't stand Wetherspoon and Pattinson. After your review I think it best I stay home and save my money for another day!
    By the way love the analogy of comparing it to dripping tar pace wise. i think that was what decided it for me!

  2. Yeah, it's poor. If you're interested in the genre or the stars then perhaps check it out on DVD but I certainly wouldn't pursue it in cinemas.

  3. I actually really enjoyed this film. Yes the romance leaved much to be desired, but I thought the performance were strong (even from Pattinson, when he got to smile) and that it looked generally really beautiful.

  4. Agree on the look (which was close to perfect) but the plot really relies on a romance that, for me, just wasn't there. I think both Pattinson and Witherspoon have been better, particularly Pattinson who I thought was really good in REMEMBER ME. This is back near his TWILIGHT 'performances'. Glad you got something out of it though Tom!

  5. I had lukewarm feelings about "Water for Elephants"

    Though, I actually enjoyed Pattinson's performance.

    Good review.

  6. Interesting that Pattinson seems to have a few supporters for his turn in this. I really didn't enjoy his performance here whereas, as I say, I thought he looked like a real talent in REMEMBER ME. I'll perhaps give it another look on Blu-ray and see if a second watch changes my opinion at all.