I finished reading the book "Water for Elephants" on Friday. And then I saw the movie on Saturday. Needless to say, the story from the book was quite fresh when I sat down in the theater. Luckily for me, the movie stayed pretty true to the book, so I have very little to complain about on that regard.
The story centers around Jacob Jankowski (Robert Pattinson), a veterinary student on the verge of graduation, when tragedy strikes in the form of his parent's death. It's the Depression, so no one has any money, and when Jacob finds out that all of his parent's assets (the house, the vet practice, the car) are being repossessed by the bank, he does the only thing he can think of: he runs away. He jumps onto a train car as he's walking along the tracks, and come to find out, it's a circus train! And they're in need of a vet!
So before you know it, Jacob is playing doctor with all of the animals in the circus' menagerie. This includes the horses, who are part of an act with the beautiful Marlena (Reese Witherspoon). Marlena is married to the ringmaster/equine director/circus owner August (Christoph Waltz). The only way to describe August is mentally ill. He has some sort of personality disorder that makes him charming one second and absolutely lethal the next. Marlena is good at controlling him, but even she can't on some occasions. Jacob notices this right away, and does his best at protecting both Marlena and the animals.
Back in those days, circuses went out of business, and when that happened, others would pull up and see what they could get off of them. For the Benzini Brothers circus, they picked up Rosie the elephant outside of Chicago. She is to become the main attraction for the show, but when trouble arises in her training sessions, August takes to beating the absolute crap out of her with the bullhook. It's really quite sad, and Jacob and Marlena bond with each other over her plight.
As the movie goes on, things get worse in the circus, in terms of relationship troubles and insubordination. I won't go into too much detail, because that might ruin the fun for you.
Performance wise, everyone did a pretty nice job. It was nice to see Robert Pattinson (or as I call him, Cedric Diggory) out of the "Twilight" scene. While I love Reese Witherspoon, I think she was a bit too old to play Marlena. In the book, it's obvious that Marlena is super young, even younger than Jacob, so Reese wasn't the best choice. But she's awesome, so it's not such a horrible thing. Christoph Waltz is a nutjob, and that's how August should have been. He's been getting a lot of crap for being too cartoonish, but that's how August was. So I tip my hat to you, sir.
On the CWeave scale, I rate this movie a 6.5. I enjoyed it immensely, but there could've been improvements. It's not one that I'll need to own, but it's worth seeing.