Water for Elephants
Direction: Francis Lawrence
Cast: Reese Witherspoon, Robert Pattinson
Rating: ** 1/2
Adapted from the hugely popular novel by Sara Gruen, this bit of Depression-era romantic fluff is at least easy on the eyes. After all, the setting is a travelling circus and it has been photographed by Rodrigo Prieto, the celebrated cinematographer of all of Inarritu's feature films from Amores Perros (2000) to Biutiful (2010).
Lucklessly, though, the narrative is neither gritty nor unconventional. One expected a more passionate relationship between the central couple, especially since they are portrayed by the still sparkling Reese Witherspoon paired with the heartthrob du jour Robert Pattinson.
Alas, there's a scant sense of investment in their characters and any on-screen chemistry is conspicuous by its absence.
Orphaned and homeless in the 1930s, a veterinarian student (Pattinson) stumbles into a job with a carnival on the brink of bankruptcy. Rather conveniently, he bonds with the wife (Witherspoon) of the ringmaster (Oscar-winner Christoph Waltz, underwhelming). They share an affection for animals, including a newly acquired elephant who's relentlessly abused by the sadistic husband.
Instead of building up a tense atmosphere, director Lawrence (I Am Legend) adopts a timid approach to the lovey-dovey duo's burgeoning affair. Inevitably, the tide turns and all their impossible dreams finally come true.
A hackneyed melodrama, Water for Elephants is worth a cursory glance mainly for the hurly-burly backdrop of a circus in a bygone era.