I have two things to admit – the first, that I was wrong about there not being fantastic movies out right now; the second, that I love that I was wrong. Yesterday I sat in the theatre and watched “Water for Elephants” with Robert Pattinson, Reese Witherspoon, and Christoph Waltz, and had the kind of experience that makes me believe that great movies are still possible. The movie is based on a book by Sara Gruen (if you are thinking that it has already found a home on my Kindle, you would be correct – ordered it yesterday), and stars Robert Pattinson as a young man who, through a series of unfortunate events, finds his way to the Benzini Brothers Circus in 1931. Christoph Waltz plays the ringmaster, and Reese Witherspoon is his wife and the star attraction of the circus. Christoph Waltz played the vicious Colonel Landa in Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds” (and if you haven’t seen that, I have to recommend it as well; another one of my favorite Tarantino movies), and he plays a variation on that character here; still a monster, but in “Water for Elephants” he does exhibit some sympathetic qualities at one point, as he strives to make the circus a success. Reese Witherspoon does an incredible job as the woman who is torn between survival in the circus and her attraction to Robert Pattinson. And let me say this about Robert Pattinson – he’s young, and not as experienced as the other two actors in this film, and at times it shows, but the awkwardness is forgiveable, in my opinion. He did make me forget about vampires as I was watching him here, and I think that’s the mark of a talented actor who will do interesting things as he matures, given the right scripts.
“Water for Elephants” reminded me of old school Hollywood, and by that I mean that the camera work was perfect, and not tricky (I only know this because I wasn’t sitting in the theatre thinking of the ways that different scenes should have been filmed, or that the camera should be still, and not wiggle-waggle like the cameraman was filming while on defective ice skates), and the narrative was coherent; so many times in the movie theatre, I’m wrenched away from my willing suspension of disbelief, because I can almost hear a big KA-CHUNK! as the storyline changes tracks, and ultimately goes right off the rails. That didn’t happen here – I was never bored, or irritated, or disappointed in spending yet another two hours and twelve bucks on a film that wasn’t worth the time or the money. “Water for Elephants” is enchanting; Hal Holbrook even does a supporting role here, and is excellent, as usual. It’s marketed as a love story, but is much more – I think you should go see it today, unless you’re reading this and saying, “Julie! It’s Easter, and I have to hide eggs and eat chocolate,” in which case you should definitely see it as soon as possible. Have a glorious Easter, all!