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Water for Elephants movie review

Updated on June 12, 2013

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Movie review

A 2011 romantic drama film directed by Francis Lawrence based on the book by Sara Gruen. It stars Reese Witherspoon, Robert Pattinson, Christoph Waltz, and Hal Holbrook. The movie starts with an old man (Hal Holbrook) outside of a circus. A man named Charlie O’ Brien who works at the circus (Paul Schneider) sees him and asks if he is lost. He is not; he became detached from his nursery home. Charlie thinks he is senile and asks for the number of his home, he refuses and wants to stay a little longer. He tells him that his name is Jacob. They have a conversation about circuses and Jacob tells Charlie that he used to work in the circus business when he was twenty three. He also tells him that he was there during one of the most circus disasters during the Great Depression era. The movie flashes back when Jacob was a student at Cornell almost graduating to get his Veterinary degree. While he was taking his final exam, he is called to the Dean’s office and has been informed that his parents have been in a car crash and has died. The bank tells him that his parents have no money to give him because his father’s veteran’s clinic made no money. His house in owned by the bank due to the fact the parents put it for a loan to pay for his tuition. Broke, he drops out of school and tries to find work with shelter. Almost giving up, he sees train and hops on meeting a man named Camel (played by Jim Horton). When he wakes up, he sees that he jumped on the Benzini Brothers circus train. He meets Marlena and August (Reese Witherspoon and Christoph Waltz) a husband and wife who run the circus. Jacob sees Marlena and is attracted by her already because of her beauty. He sees a horse named Silver that they use for the act and that Silver is limping. He tells August that he has his veterinary degree (but actually doesn’t) to help the horse. He tells him Silver has laminitis and only has two days to live. August thinks thinks that he can still use the horse for a while but doesn’t tell the wife and tells Jacob not to say anything. Marlena already knows something is wrong with Silver and Jacob tells her about Silver’s laminitis. He puts her down by shooting the horse in the head. August finds out about this, saying that Jacob betrayed his trust by not abiding by his rules. He attempts to throw him off the train, but doesn’t and gives him another chance. However he has to find another animal for his star attraction. They buy an elephant named Rosie to train and for Jacob to take care of her. At first, Rosie doesn’t listen to the commands and Augusts turns brutal by poking her with a stick to move around. He has been known to do this to plenty of his animals, because they are just animals and he feels that animal death is not important than a man dying. Jacob being polish speaks polish to her and they realize that Rosie speaks polish so Jacob helps with the training. They have a show and it is a success, so Marlena and August celebrate with dinner and invites Jacob. They drink, talk about the future and say that they will be bigger than the Ringling Brothers. While celebrating, August and Marlena dance, Jacob sits and watches them. He sees August getting kind of abusive with Marlena, but she calms him down. Throughout the flashback the Benzini Brothers are a hit because of Rosie the elephant and they celebrate with parties. One night there is a raid at a party and police start to arrest people. Marlena and Jacob escape by hiding in one of the animal cages, August hides somewhere else knowing where his wife is. They exchange a few words and kiss starting an affair. This movie really moved at the way they cared for the animals. August was very abusive to the animals and the humans when they don’t listen to him. He thinks he is the alpha male of the entire circus because he pays and trains everybody. With his wife, he loves her, but treats her like an object. To me I think he likes Jacob at first because he didn’t listen to his rule about putting down Silver. I really don’t like giving too much of a movie but the ending surprised me. At first my theory of the movie was that Marlena was manipulative and August was nice. The movie is very sweet how Marlena and Jacob meet, but it is wrong the way they start the affair because she is married. It is still a good movie, if you have not watched it you should.


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