I have just got back from a preview screening of Water For Elephants based on Sara Gruen’s excellent book. I know, for most of you, it’s already on general release, but here in the UK we’re always miles behind. The official UK release date is Wednesday 4th May.
Overall, I think the film captured the circus life well, even if the nastier side was skimmed over a bit. Unfortunately, Robert Pattinson does not make a convincing Jacob. The years of playing a vampire, even a sparkly one, has not given him much chance to work on his facial expressions. There is chemistry there, but it’s between him and Rosie rather him and Marlena (played by Reese Witherspoon). I can understand the charm of Rosie of course, but I think the central relationship needed more spark.
The book had me in tears when I read it. At the start of the film I got a bit misty eyed when old Jacob (played by Hal Holbrook) picks up the photo of Rosie and Marlena in the circus office. But that’s because I knew what was coming and I remained dry eyed for the rest of the film. I really liked old Jacob, actually. They have stripped out all the retirement home sections, understandably enough, and old Jacob is only really there for the introduction and to wrap things up at the end.
When adapting a book into a film, compromises need to be made and I think they tried to cover too many elements of the book instead of concentrating on one area and making that great. Whilst I thought Camel’s story was important in the book in setting the scene of prohibition America but he was so brief a part in the film I’d rather have had him left out.
Oh and it annoyed me the way Robert Pattinson picked up the horse’s leg (twice). You think one of the horse handlers would have shown him how to do it properly. A horse that was in real pain probably would have kicked in his head!
There was a mixed reception coming out of the cinema. I think it was more popular with the younger, female half of the audience. Nice to see on the big screen but probably not worth it for lovers of the book.
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