'Water For Elephants' Sprots Perfect Casting With Glaring Exception
Published: Sunday, March 27, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01
I've always been a sucker for period films. I think it's both utterly fascinating and entertaining to step into a theater and find yourself in a decade that you never lived through yourself. It's always interesting to watch time-old topics such as love and camaraderie played out on a foreign landscape with unique circumstances. It's this type of thinking that attracted me to Water for Elephants, an upcoming film that revolves around a traveling circus during the Depression era.
After seeing a trailer for the movie, which stars Robert Pattinson, Reese Witherspoon, and Christoph Waltz, during Christmas vacation, I elected to read the book from which the movie is based. With an interesting plot and a sober view of the plight of the Great Depression, I was pleasantly surprised with the novel, and I believe that the upcoming film adaptation, which opens April 22, has what it takes to be the first great flick of the summer movie season.
Water for Elephants centers around the life of young college student Jacob Jankowski (Pattinson), whose life is turned upside down early in the novel when both of his parents die in a car accident. Not mentally capable of continuing his veterinary studies, Jacob leaves Princeton and, in hopes of finding a new life hops on a passing train. Jankowski stumbles upon a traveling circus, fully equipped with a wide array of animal and human entertainers. Normally not too kind to train jumpers, the ringmaster sees Jankowski's veterinary skills as invaluable and spares the young man.
While incorporating himself into the daily happenings of the circus, Jankowski begins to form a relationship with August Rosenbluth (Waltz), the initially charismatic, but ultimately terrifying head of animal entertainment. At the same time, Jankowski sets his sights on Marlena (Witherspoon), the enchantingly beautiful horse charmer who just so happens to be the wife of August. Jankowski soon finds it hard to repress his love for Marlena and contempt for August, and the various conflicts in the story begin to build on each other until the plot reaches a dramatic and chaotic climax.
The thing that makes me most excited for this film is the casting. Waltz really couldn't be more perfect for this role. He displayed many of the characteristics of August Rosenbluth when he played Col. Landa in Inglourious Basterds, a performance that won him an Academy Award. The Austrian actor has proven that he can create a charming aurora around truly haunting characters, a skill that makes his performances all the more frightening. As for Witherspoon, she is one of the few A-list list actresses who I consistently enjoy, and I think the role of the amiable yet emotionally fragile Marlena is well within her range. Although I would have favored Scarlett Johansson, who turned down the role of Marlena, I still think that Reese can deliver a strong and satisfying performance.
Now we come to the one casting decision that leaves me scratching my head, the now worldwide teen idol and vampire phenomenon Robert Pattinson. Perhaps it's that the majority of his roles consists of him silently brooding into the camera or that he's rumored to have a steady relationship with my biggest Hollywood crush, Kristen Stewart, but I find it odd and unfitting to have Pattinson squeezed between two presitgious and, dare I say legendary Academy Award winners. Reports are that both Emile Hirsch and Social Network star Andrew Garfield auditioned for the role that Pattinson ultimately won. I find it very interesting and somewhat illogical that the filmmakers elected to go with the Twilight star over two critically acclaimed young actors. Maybe the studio was overly concerned about attracting the coveted teenage female demographic. Whatever the reason, Jankowski is a character that displays a wide emotional spectrum, and Pattinson will have to travel far outside his comfort zone to nail the role. But Pattinson will most likely be working with a solid script, so I'll give the young Brit a chance and try my hardest to slide my disdain out of sight when I go to the theater to see Water for Elephants.