Apparently from what I’ve heard Water for Elephants is a much-beloved novel that I’m guessing Oprah recommended based on all the women in the theater the day I saw it.
Obviously I never read the book but the movie was certainly quite entertaining. I went into it a bit skeptical as circus movies tend to find a way to fail to impress and this one starred Reese Witherspoon. Nothing against Witherspoon but I’ve simply never seen her in any starring role that I liked with the possible exception of Election. I did like her in Cruel Intentions but she wasn’t the star. I’ve also never fully gotten the elation surrounding her. Seems like a nice enough person but I’ve just never bought into her Hollywood cachet.
Then there’s the other star, Robert Pattinson. He’s a nice enough looking fellow too but I couldn’t stop thinking that a vampire was about to jump out at any moment. If anything he was the one actor that stuck out here and not in a good way. He simply didn’t seem right for the role to me.
That said, the other character roles were flat-out tremendous. At the head of the list is Christoph Walz whom I’m sure is about 10 minutes away from being typecast as a perennial villain. I heard murmurs from the audience that his accent was totally wrong for the role but, having not read the book, it worked perfectly for me. This guy could sell me in any role I suspect. And who doesn’t like Hal Holbrook in any role these days? As the “narrator” of the film he was pitch-perfect as usual. Then we have the old circus vet character, Camel, played flawlessly by Jim Norton. If Ray Walston were still alive he’d have checked his calendar to make sure he wasn’t the one playing it and that’s a huge compliment.
I was glued to the screen for most of the film and loved how it even tied in with some actual circus facts of days gone by (the Hartford Circus Fire most notably). Each turn the film took just worked for me from start to finish and once Walz shows up everything just jumped up another notch. Nothing other than being distracted by Pattinson and initial concerns about Witherspoon come to mind as a negative. In fact, now I can say I have a fresh appreciation for Ms. Witherspoon.