So, the movie adaptation of Water For Elephants finally hit Australian screens and so, being the little book nerd that I am, I dutifully went and saw it.  And was happily surprised by how good it was.

For those who haven’t yet seen or read the book (by Sara Gruen), the story follows Jacob Jankowski, a young man who quits veterinary school at the last minute after his parents die in a car crash.  With no home and no future Jacob becomes a stowaway on a train that ends up being a circus that is continually threatened by bankruptcy.

Jacob is almost immediately drawn to the star act and wife of August (the ring-master, and in the film adaptation, owner of the circus), Marlena.  They are then thrown together, so to speak, when Jacob is given the job of taming new recruit, Rosie, a lovable elephant whom Marlena will ride in the circus.

Of course things don’t go well (do they ever?  Probably not since then there’d be no story).  First off, Rosie is much harder to control than Jacob thought which causes August, who is actually bipolar, to violently turn on her.  On top of that Marlena and Jacob fall for each other…and August finds out.  Whoops!

Of course there is lots more to the story…but one way to find out is to either read the book or see the movie (I suggest both).

What I liked about the film was the style that it was filmed; instead of jumping on the modern technology bandwagon, using 3D and other gimmicks to sell the story, the director (Frances Lawrence) shot the movie so that it felt like we were back in the 1930s (which is the era that the story is set).  Also, because it was set in the 1930s the style of clothing was absolutely beautiful (trust me, Rob Pattinson can pull it off) and the music they used really added to the effect overall.

Rob Pattinson actually surprised me with his acting because he managed to do both anguished (nothing new there) but also loving and playful, particularly with his scenes with Rosie, the elephant.  However, while Reese Witherspoon was also her usual lovely self I didn’t get a great deal of chemistry between them, which I may have felt have been because of their age difference.

However, the stand-out performance was definitely Christopher Waltz, who played August.  This was always going to be a tricky part to play, but Waltz managed to walk the fine line between terrifying and over-the-top.  He plays his bipolar tendencies perfectly, so that by the end of the film you’re on eggshells just waiting for him to do something horrendous (which he does).

Probably the only things I didn’t enjoy about the film?  The old man’s role who tells the story overall.  First off, it wasn’t necessary and if it were then they should have stayed closer to the book and made his relevance known.  Also, he appeared to be Irish even though Jacob in the 1930s was definitely Polish/American.  Hmmm….

On top of that I felt that the ending was ever-so-slightly drawn out.  I felt that the big finale (you’ll know it when you see it) should have concluded the film, but the added 5-10 minutes just lessened the effect instead of adding to it.

If you’ve seen it let me know what you thought.  And if you haven’t and don’t plan on seeing it, well…WHY NOT?