Water for Elephants – Written by Sara Gruen
This is a book I read specifically because I saw the trailer for the movie. “Water for Elephants” seemed like an over-produced, glammed up, Hollywood take on a story that had potential to be quite interesting. I read this book with my friend Kassie, both of us determined to finish it before the film came out. We finished it in a few days filled with mini book-meetings, where Kassie and I gushed over the plot and budding romance between Jacob and Marlena.
Water for Elephants was a really nice story. Sara Gruen definitely did her homework, making the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth seem like a genuine circus, complete with dancing animals and freaks of all shapes and sizes. There is a lot going on in the story. I enjoyed how the novel, told from Jacob’s perspective, continuously flashed back and forth between present and past time. Fear is central to the story; members of the circus are fearful of many things such as getting “red-lighted” or contracting Jake leg. Most of all, August is feared, his manic-depressive mood swings having kept all of the characters on their toes. As the reading begins, we already know the circus is going to fall apart, and Gruen accomplishes a successful turn of events that lead to the Benzini Brothers downfall.
I did find the relationship between Jacob and Marlena to be rushed and almost underdeveloped. While it is clear they have deep feelings for eachother, how they fall in love is kind of over looked. I understood the severity of keeping their relationship a secret from August but, for some reason, it didn’t feel very realistic to me; the only moments where I felt their connection was when Jacob in the nursing home spoke of Marlena. Regardless, Kassie and I praised Water for Elephants and had very high hopes for the movie, although the actors did not seem fitting for the characters.
“Water for Elephants” – Directed by Francis Lawrence
I believe this was one of those instances where reading the novel hurt my appreciation for the movie. To begin, I did not see Reese Witherspoon playing the role of Marlena. While I am a fan of Reese, I felt she is too seasoned, too stereotyped, and definitely too blonde to portray the petite, youthful Marlena. I am not saying Reese is not beautiful, I just felt this was Hollywood’s way to attract viewers. Robert Pattinson and Reese Witherspoon are two powerhouses in the movie industry so, rather than cast appropriately, 20th Century Fox wanted celebrities. Understood.
The movie was good. There were obvious changes to the story and characters were removed, but the solid storylines were there. I felt that Rosie really became a character rather than just a concept support to the plot, which I liked. Christoph Waltz as August was truly brilliant and, in my opinion, was the only one to truly embrace their character. Watching the film you really begin to hate August, which is exactly what the story wants you to feel.
Just like many romantic dramas, “Water For Elephants” was heartwarming, sweet, and suspenseful, but I wanted the emotions I felt reading the book. It just didn’t come across to me and I felt I would have enjoyed the movie more on its own, without my ideas from the novel in the back of my mind. It is hard to judge this mook. It was a decent movie that was clearly inspired by the book… but I wasn’t impressed. I think better casting and screenwriting choices would have made it more successful.
Mook Rating – ★★