Movie Review: ‘Water For Elephants’

The TV Guide

For months I’ve been talking about the big screen adaptation of the novel Water for Elephants and this weekend the film finally opened in theaters. To be honest, despite the amount of time I spent blogging about the production and promotion of the film, I wasn’t really convinced that I would love the final product. Last night, David and I decided to see the film because it was the best option available … and while I was kinda, sorta interested in seeing it, I wasn’t all that excited. I am happy to report that I not only enjoyed the film, I actually really loved it!


For months, Pink readers have been advising me to read the novel but I never found the time to do so … having seen the film, I think I’m glad that I saw the film version first. I was expecting a schmaltzy film but not a truly emotional one … I was sucked in immediately. The character interaction is superb and the chemistry between Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattinson is really fantastic. I believed the emotion that transpired between their two characters. The movie was endearing, entertaining, heartwarming and even exciting. I was gripped to the edge of my seat by the end of the film. Christoph Waltz plays an excellent villain … he really rounds out the cast very perfectly (but, without question, the scene stealer is Rosie the elephant). The opening sequence really threw me off … I thought I knew how the movie would end but I was pleasantly surprised. The film was shot so beautifully that I really forgot it was a period piece (which I normally hate). I’ve never really thought about circuses … never felt any allure toward them. Water for Elephants does a great job of romanticizing and exposing their cruelty all at the same time. If I were to compare the film to another that I was surprised that I loved, it would be The Notebook. If that film is something you enjoy watching, you will deffo love Water for Elephants. Did any of y’all watch the movie this weekend? What did you think?

Now … I think I’ll really have to read the book to find out what stuff got cut out of the final product ;)

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  1. YAY!! I can’t wait to see this movie!!!

  2. Andrea

    I was SO hoping you were going to review this movie today!! Saw it yesterday also with my boo, LOVED IT!! I think for a book to movie it was towards the top of my ‘most well done’ list. They leave quite a bit out but did a great job of not letting that effect the over-all tone and message of the story. I still left the movie with the same feelings I had as I read the last page. The character development was awesome and the acting superb!

    Well done all around!!

  3. Jaycee

    While I enjoyed the film (it follows the book surprisingly rather closely) I felt the opposite about Reese and Robert’s chemistry. I couldn’t help thinking he looks more like her son than a love interest, particularly when he watches August and Marlenea kissing and canoodling with one another. The animal cruelty sequences were hard for me to watch but this was very true to how I felt reading the novel so that was all well done. And even as I felt that there was a severe lack of chemistry between the two main leads, their love scene in the inn was tastefully and rather beautifully done. Ooh-and Christoph Waltz was PERFECT as August!

    • perdiz

      I have been thinking that for a while. That Reese just seems so much more mature than him. I mean Rob is still being portrayed as a high school student in some movies. seemed odd to me. I have not, however, seen the film yet so I guess I will have to wait to see how it works till I actually watch it.

    • To be fair, Jacob was still in college, putting him at 21, 22. Marlena was portrayed as much older in the movie than she was in the book. While they didn’t give her a clear age in the movie, they specifically said she was 21 in the book.

    • Julie

      I found the animal cruelty very hard to watch also…other than that, it was great!! But I must advise that there is some hard scenes to see with the animals :(…but that’s the truth about the circus!!

    • Mary Mitchell

      I have read the book and saw the movie yesterday. The only part of the movie that had a problem with was the cruelty towards the elephant. I wonder how others who are against any animal cruelty have reacted? Those scenes really bothered me.

    • K8

      Thank you for posting this. I didn’t know much about this story and I just bought the book hoping to read it before seeing the movie but animal cruelty is something I really can’t get through. Having second thoughts on it now…

  4. EMILEE

    Thanks Trent, for posting this. I had no interest at ALL to see this, but this swayed me into wanting to go out and see it. Thanks <3

  5. Justme

    I loved the book and the movie. I thought they did a great job with bringing the book to life. I was not sure if Rob would be believable but he was great. There were hints of his pained twilight face that I can’t stand but he was still great. I just about died when he came out of that trunk with the face paint and the pasties. LOL! :D

  6. HeatherLea_1340

    I think it’s funny how he played her son in a deleted scene of “Vanity Fair,” and now he’s playing her love interest. That’s Hollywood for ya!

  7. Marcellla

    I kinda wanna see it and I knida dont….but your review really made me want to go see it until you said it reminded you of the notebook (one of my least favorite movies)…ugh but i still think ill go watch it haha….by the way trent you MUST see Rio!! im surprised you havent seen it (or atleast reviewed it)! i LOVE LOVE LOVED it! do it please =)

  8. Aimee

    I’m in the minority in that I didn’t really love the book. It was OK, but it left me feeling like it was predictable and all wrapped up too neatly. I still want to see the film tho because I think it will translate nicely. Still, I’ll wait for it to come on-demand. ;-)

  9. i cant wait to see this movie! im so gald you liked it :)

  10. Karli

    I absolutely LOVED it! My mom hated it- she said the book was soo much better, but for someone who hadn’t read the book I thought it was great!

  11. Sara

    I have not read the book, but want to after seeing the movie Friday. My husband was not enthused to begin with, b/c he thought it was going to be a chick flick. We both ended up loving it. It was perfectly cast, and the acting was fantastic.

  12. I’m so glad you enjoyed the movie! I was really really entertained by it. I was a little hesitant about the casting but I really believe the actors did a truly remarkable job! Now read the book… it’s even better! (and the movie did a fairly good job of staying true to it!)

  13. BCDanielle

    I am glad to hear the movie was so good; I really want to see it!

  14. I can’t wait to see the movie now! Loved the book! Thanks PITNB reader for getting me to read such an awesome book!

  15. Anna

    I had the same thoughts as you Trent, I had never thought about the perils of a circus nor do I usually enjoy period pieces. But as I was reading this book (which honestly I only read because I like Reese Witherspoon) I knew the movie would be fantastic. A circus animal stampede can only be well appreciated visually, right?! I was disheartened when I saw the initial reviews of their lack of chemistry but I’m glad you think opposite. Can’t wait to see it this weekend to judge for myself, pretty sure I will love it!

  16. Shannon

    I loved it! Now, yes, the animal cruelity scenes are hard to take in, but if you read the book, you knew they were going to be in the movie. It was a huge part of the movie, because that’s how you really started to see who August was. Christopher Waltz was amazing, the most on point character in the movie.
    There were just a few things my sister and I felt were missing: Why did they combine August and Ring Leader into one character?, The relationship between Jacob and Walter should have been explained a little more (i love those two together), and I don’t understand why they did such a big age difference between Marlena and Jacob (even though it worked).
    All in all, excellent movie and I’d even go see it again!

  17. Kristen

    I also saw this movie over the weekend and absolutely LOVED it!! I was really hoping it would be good, and I was pleasantly surprised with how great it turned out. I read the book a few years ago so don’t remember every detail, but thought they did a great job of translating it onto the screen. Also loved Rob and Reese together. I thought the acting was fantastic. I was really pleased with it and am thinking about going to see it again!

  18. DeeBee

    I very much enjoyed this film. I saw it mostly for christoph waltz, I have been a huge fan of his since inglorious basterds, or at least his casting was the decision factor for me to actually spend the money in theaters to watch it opening night. I too found the animal cruelty harder for me to watch then it was to read, at least in my own imagination I could down play it a little to get through the book but having it masterfully visualized was tragic and heart breaking and yet it was an experience. I like films and books that can affect me and I left the theater very satisfied. I think they combined the character of the ring leader and august to give him that much more of a realistic authority figure outside of his marriage to Marlena and I had no problems with that..also I think the age difference worked, because unless you have read the book, it worked seamlessly into the film..without reading the book I would have just assumed Marlena had died before Jacob because she was older then him etc. I found myself in an array of emotions from anger, sadness and finally happiness and nostalgia by the end of this movie. I strongly recommend going to see it.

  19. jessicagiovanna

    I want to read the novel before I watch this. Reese’s bone structure is disturbing me in that last pic. And even though I haven’t seen the movie, it seems to me that their chemistry is non existant. Oh, and I would cheat on my husband with Mr. Waltz =P

  20. Tara

    I thought the movie was good, but in the book the ending of August’s death is kept a secret between Jacob & Rosie emphasizing their relationship, Jacob’s voice in the book starts with him saying “i kept her secret for all these years” but the movie didn’t portray that. I also think they should have gone back and forth to current time similar to “The Notebook”, Jacob had a relationship with a nurse in the book that I felt was important and easily could have been added. Robert Pattison does clean up nicely :-)

  21. jessicagiovanna

    Good job ruining the storyline for those of us who planned on reading the book or watching the movie, Tara.

  22. Megan

    jessicagiovanna–What’d he ruin? I still have no idea what the movie is about….

  23. jessicagiovanna

    Hi Megan, check out the post right above mine, Tara’s. I was referring to her post.

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