Hans Landa vs. Edward Cullen: imagine if this was handled by Tarantino.
Taking place in the Depression Era veterinary medicine student Jacob (Robert Pattinson) joins a 2nd-rate travelling circus and falls for the star performer (Reese Witherspoon). Christoph Waltz plays her husband, August, a dangerous paranoid schizophrenic animal trainer who is as mean to his wife as he is to the circus creatures.
With all of this talk and hype about how director Francis Lawrence may take over the sequel for The Hunger Games, I thought what better way to know what you’re going to get yourself into than to check out his latest work. No, not I Am Legend, even though I wish it was.
I never read the best-seller that this is based off of (probably because it wasn’t written by Elmore Leonard) but I can definitely tell just by watching this flick, that it was probably one hell of a read with the story they have here. The story itself takes place in 1931, and it sort of feels like a film that could have been made around that time as well. This reminded me a lot of the old-Hollywood movies where there are little or no explosions, heavy violence, heavy cussin’, or CGI for that matter.
The cinematography, costumes, and set-designs also brought me back to the time of where things were harder to get and the people were a lot more sad than usual, but in the end, an honest works pay was still an honest works pay. It’s just a straight-up, old-fashioned, love story that almost played in the same reign as countless other flicks like The Notebook and Seabiscuit and rather than just telling another generic, love story that offers nothing new or original, we get something that is at least interesting to keep your eyes glued onto.
However, there were some obvious things that seemed to bother me especially when it came to the casting here. I really do want to like Robert Pattinson, I really do. I think beyond all of that Twilight shit he gets thrown onto him, somewhere lies a very talented actor that is ready to just branch-out at any second, but keeps on getting roles that just seem to put him in the same exact boat as he was back in 2008. Pattinson’s role here as Jacob (irony!) comes off more bland even though it’s obvious he is trying his damn near hardest. It’s not like watching this guy is brutal by any means, because he’s definitely a tolerable actor, it’s just that this role seemed like they needed a man but got more of a boy instead. Maybe in a couple of years down the line once he has a whole bunch of experience with some roles, Pattinson might be a forced to be reckoned with, but for now, I think he has to safely rely on Cosmopolis. For now, anyway.
Another piece of casting that didn’t quite work like I would have wanted it to was surprisingly Christoph Waltz as the angry circus-owner, August. I loved him as Hans Landa in Inglorious Basterds, as did everybody else including the producers who pretty much give him the exact same role, but instead of killing jews, he was killing circus animals. This is a huge bummer considering that this guy doesn’t really disappear into this role at all and just gives a character that is a little bit too menacing for his own good. Yeah, he’s supposed to be a bad guy that looses his temper very quickly and easily, but this guy is so damn sinister and effed up in the head that I couldn’t buy him once as a guy that owned a circus with a bunch of fun-loving animals, or even buy him as a guy that wouldn’t kill every person that worked for him either. Waltz is good with this role, as you would expect, but this guy was just a little too mean for his own good and definitely took me out of his character’s believably more and more as the film went along.
Believe it or not, the cast member that actually finds a way of coming out clean throughout the whole flick is actually Reese Witherspoon as both of these dudes’ object of affection. She’s sexy, cute, and has a lot of charm to her that seems to work and make you realize why she is so damn irresistible and beautiful. Still, her chemistry with Pattinson is a bit lacking but I guess that’s another problem we have here with the casting.
Actually, the one performance that really t0ok me by hold was Hal Hollbrook here, who plays the older version of Jacob in the scenes where it’s just him talking to a fellow circus-worker. Obviously, you can’t compare 25-year old Pattinson to 86-year old Hollbrook when it comes to acting, but Hollbrook’s performance as a sweet, heart-broken old man comes off as one of the main reasons this guy is such a damn good actor and one that deserved a lot more screen-time here.
Consensus: Some of the casting and chemistry may be off, but Water for Elephants is still a flick that brings you back to the old-Hollywood days with a sweeping romance, some fine-looking scenery, and a romance that we can actually care for rather than just rolling our eyes at.