In Water For Elephants, Jacob (Pattinson) joins a circus and falls in love with the owner’s wife, Marlene (Witherspoon). The owner (Waltz) orders Jacob to train an elephant that he hopes will resurrect the dying circus. Read the full review for more.

Business rating: 1/5 star

Star cast: Robert Pattinson, Reese Witherspoon, Christoph Waltz.

What’s Good: Christoph Waltz’s performance; the interesting climax.

What’s Bad: The absence of chemistry between Pattinson and Witherspoon; the slow pace of the drama.

Verdict: ‘Water For Elephants’ holds entertainment value for the discerning city audience.

Loo break: None.


Watch or Not?: Watch if you are a connoisseur of good cinema.

Water For Elephants Preview (Water For Elephants Movie Stills)
Water For Elephants Review - Robert Pattinson & Reese Witherspoon bond over an old Indian elephant called Rosie.

3 Arts Entertainment and Flashpoint Entertainment’s Water For Elephants is the story of a young man and his quest for love in difficult times.

It is the late ‘20s. A young student, Jacob (Robert Pattinson), is about to complete his graduation in veterinary science from Cornell University, when his parents die in a car accident. Consequently, Jacob is rendered homeless and penniless as his Polish immigrant parents had owed money to a bank. Not knowing what to do in the difficult time of The Great Depression, Jacob decides to go to the city in order to find some work.

Jacob climbs a running train which belongs to a circus troupe which travels from town to town. After doing some menial work for the circus for a while, Jacob lands a job as the circus veterinarian. The charismatic circus owner, August (Christoph Waltz), and his beautiful wife, Marlene (Reese Witherspoon), welcome Jacob into their world. August trusts Jacob’s judgment in spite of the latter not having completed his graduation. And because of their common love for animals, Jacob and Marlene (who is the star performer of the circus) become close to one another. Jacob soon falls in love with Marlene.

Differences of opinion between Jacob and August lead to several confrontations. Moreover, Jacob also realises that as opposed to his exterior demeanour, August is a whimsical, short-tempered and violent man, frustrated because of the circus’ poor financial condition. He also learns that August orders circus folk to be thrown off the train only because he has no use for them. Jacob also finds out that Marlene is not very happy with August although the couple maintains the illusion of happiness during their shows. He pleads with her to leave August. Marlene confesses her love for him (Jacob) but does not want to leave the life that she is used to.

Water For Elephants Preview (Water For Elephants Movie Stills)
Water For Elephants - Robert Pattinson portrays complex emotions with ease. Reese Witherspoon's casting is perfect.

In the meantime, August purchases an old female elephant, Rosie, and asks Jacob to train it. Jacob familiarises himself with the elephant but fails to train it. However, August insists on putting the elephant in the ring. One day, after Rosie runs off during a show, August physically tortures the elephant in a fit of rage.

Later, by fluke, Jacob is able to train Rosie. Rosie and Marlene’s act becomes the star attraction for the audience and the circus starts making money. August is very happy but starts suspecting Jacob and Marlene. August later finds out about his wife’s relationship with Jacob. He threatens Jacob with dire consequences. What happens next? Do Jacob and Marlene run away? What about August?

Water For Elephants Review – Story & Screenplay

Richard LaGravenese’s screenplay, based on the novel, Water For Elephants (by Sara Gruen), has an interesting premise. The film’s story, told to a stranger by the now old Jacob, is slow-paced but entertaining in parts. The scenes in which Jacob is being introduced to the circus life, when he innocently flirts with Marlene and where he trains the elephant stand out.  And although the chemistry between Jacob and Marlene really doesn’t work very well, it is more than compensated for by the nuanced characterisation of August. The dialogues are good. The climax, for some, will be the best part of the film. Overall, the script will appeal to the discerning city audiences.

Water For Elephants Review – Star Performances & Direction

Robert Pattinson stands his own, portraying complex emotions with ease. Reese Witherspoon looks old but her casting as Marlene is perfect. Oscar-winning actor Christoph Waltz is the highlight of the film, what with his proficient portrayal of the circus owner’s conflicting moods. Jim Norton (as old man) and Mark Povinelli (as the midget) support well.

Francis Lawrence’s direction is good. He extracts good performances and manages to keep the audience interest alive. Background score, by James Newton Howard, goes with the mood of the film. Rodrigo Prieto’s cinematography is very good. Editing, by Alan Edward Bell, is okay.

The Last Word
On the whole, in spite of being a well-made film, Water For Elephants will do dull business at the box-office as it holds value for a select class of audience only.




  1. I read Water for Elephants a couple of years ago. I relaly liked it, because it was such a different topic and well written. I would never have thought I would be reading a book about circus life! I like to find books like this that take me out of my comfort zone.Right now I am reading Rick Ricodian’s newest book… The Lost Hero, it’s a new book that piggy backs on the Percy Jackson series. It’s a fun story and I have learned a lot about Greek Mythology– plus, I was a 5th grade teacher until August and I like to read this level. :)


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