In the 1930s, a young Veterinary Medicine student, Jacob Jankowski, (Robert Pattinson, Twlight), abandons his studies when his parents are killed. It is the time of the Great Depression when traveling circuses were popular and abundant. Therefore, penniless and distraught, Jacob hits the road and takes a job caring for animals with a third-rate traveling circus.
Jacob falls in love with Marlena Rosenbluth, the beautiful young equestrian star of the Benzini Brothers’ Most Spectacular Show on Earth. Oscar* winner, Reese Witherspoon (Walk the Line) brings Marlena to life. She is the wife of August (Christoph Waltz), the head trainer at the circus.
Christoph Waltz is the Oscar-winning Australian actor who played the monstrous Nazi in Inglourious Basterds. He accepted the role of August when actor Sean Penn dropped out.
Because it is the time of the Great Depression, everyone at Benzini Brothers feels lucky to have a job. Marlena, a waif of the Depression, considers she is doubly lucky because she is also married. That is, until she begins to fall in love with Jacob.
It does not take long before Jacob also falls in love with her. The love triangle further complicates both their lives. Meanwhile, Jacob, who is of Polish descent, has another love, Rosie, an elephant from Poland. Because Rosie understands Polish and he can speak it, they form a special bond.
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Water for Elephants is based on the historical novel of the same title by Canadian Author Sara Gruen, now a dual U.S. citizen. Her first novel, Riding Lessons (2004) was a hit and so was the sequel, Flying Changes (2005). Water for Elephants (2006) topped the NY Times Best-Seller list and sold four million copies. Her latest, The Ape House, was published in 2010.
The screenplay adaptation was written by Academy Award nominee Richard LaGravenese (The Fisher King, 1981). Among his other screenplay adaptations, is that of the Robert James Waller novel for the beloved novel, and oscar-winning 1995 movie, The Bridges of Madison County.
Water for Elephants, the movie, will premiere at Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Los Angeles Thursday, April 14th. It is scheduled to open in the U.S. Friday, April 22nd.
The director was the popular Austrian music video director Francis Lawrence, who has directed videos for artists such as Britney Spears, Will Smith, Sarah McLachlan, and Aerosmith. He made his feature film directorial debut with I am Legend, starring Will Smith (2007).
A stellar list of credits include Cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto (Brokeback Mountain, Babel, 21 Grams); Original Music by composer James Newton Howard (also known as James Howard Newton, Sixth Sense, The Fugitive); Production Designer Jack Fisk, or Fiske (There Will Be Blood, Mulholland Drive); Editor Allen Edward Bell (The Green Mile, (500) Days of Summer, A Few Good Men).
There is a plethora of other movie professionals in the cast and crew. Among the myriad professionals there is venerated actor Hal Holbrook who portrays Old Jacob and helps narrate the story. Tai, a female Asian elephant plays Rosie, the Benzini Brother's “Great White Hope” for a successful season. Warning, she may steal your heart.
Special Effects are by Crazy Horse Effects. Other production companies are Fox 2000 Pictures, 3 Arts Entertainment and Flashpoint Entertainment. Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation is the main distributor.
Everything about this movie portends a successful run, plus awards at the end of the year. I recommend it, hoping it will not turn out to be only a short-lived 'Tourist'. That I doubt.
*Oscar is registered by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.