Friday, 13 May 2011

147: Review - Water For Elephants

CAUTION: Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.

Water For Elephants
11 May 2011. Location: Cinema

Pre-amble: Now, Water for Elephants isn't aimed at 15yr old girls. But, due to it having Robert Pattinson in a lead role, it does attract them. I expect a higher level of attendance in the cinema on Orange Wednesdays. As much as I despise people, it's nice to see folks in the habit of going to the flicks. What this all adds up to is a cinema full of people, a large demographic of whom are female and in their mid to late teens. This statistic means I shouldn't be surprised when there's a higher percentage than usual who can't leave their fucking phones alone for two hours.

Turn your fucking phone OFF you morons. There are two separate trails running during the ads asking you politely (perhaps too subtly?) to switch the handheld idiot-device to 'OFF'. Not silent, OFF. Because I don't sit in the front row at the cinema, I don't want to be constantly distracted by the blinding glare from your smartphone with a screen the size of a laptop that's apparently smarter than you fucking are. There is nothing - nothing - so fucking important that requires you to text/facebook during a film in the cinema. Waiting for important news? Relative in hospital? Abducted child? Then go home and put on a DVD to watch while you wait for the message, you stupid, stupid FUCK. Switch off from your tedious fucking world for two short hours, and be transported to another one. All those people whose names come on screen at the end? They worked for months, sometimes years on this, apparently so that you can ignore the artform in front of you, and text inconsequential horseshit to your friends, presuambly also in a cinema.

During the ads/trailers? Yep, go for it. During the film? Fuck off.

...and breathe...

I enjoyed Water for Elephants more than I thought I would. The book came highly recomended to me but I found it pretty average (largely down to me not really caring one way or the other for the circus). I was more engaged by the film as a lot of the 'present day' segments have been hugely compressed. I liked the casting of Hal Holbrook as an older version of Pattinson; there's a good facial resemblance which is all too rare in this kind of thing (although he didn't seem old enough to me. In-story, he'd have to be in his late 90's, and even though he's 86 he doesn't look that old).
Also worth mentioning; It reminded me of an episode of Young Indiana Jones when it used to be on the TV and was bookended by the old Indy telling a tale from the 1920's to some young whippersnapper. To all intents and purposes, it is Young Indy, but without the important historical figures. And with more actual romance. Ah well.

The Good:
Christolph Waltz as August, the tormented ringmaster pretty much owns the show here, even if his portrayal is a little too similar to Hans Landa in Inglourious Basterds. Tai, the elephant who stars as Rosie is also fantastic. Although I'm not sure how many varied parts she'll get after this (fnar). Robert Pattinson is surprisingly (to me at least) good in his role as the young Jacob Jankowski. He relies on his brooding-face quite often, but it's in-character, so I'll let that one slide. Some of the photography in the first half of the movie is beautiful, but the need for establishing shots in the second half is minimal, so there gets to be less of it.

The Bad:
Reese Witherspoon failed to engage me almost completely. She's not bad bad, but this isn't the role for her. The character she plays, Marlena, is required to put over a lot of emotion (and indeed the other characters are acting as if she is), but I found her performance pretty flat. I've seen her be so much better in other films, maybe she's just being overshadowed by an awesome elephant and a pantomime villain?

The Ugly:
For the most part it's fine, but some sections of the script appear to have been written by a 12yr old. Cases in point: Hal Holbrook as old-Jacob. Some great acting, but his lines are awful and clichéd. Similarly Jim Norton* as Camel; I know the guy can act, I've seen it, but almost every line of his is filled with soul-crushing exposition, and he's trying to sell it to no avail, I can tell.

All in all:
Very good if you're in the mood for it, but if you're thinking that this isn't your thing - it's probably not. I enjoyed it at the time, but it hasn't left me with anything, and I'm still not bothered about the circus.


* Oh yeah, Jim 'Bishop Brennan' Norton ("Len!" - "Don't call me Len, you little prick, I'm a bishop!"). Awesome. This was almost as good as when Henry Sellers was in Mamma Mia! ("I made the BBC!").

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.

• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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