Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen is a wonderful book. The tale of Jacob Jankowski and his experiences with the Benzini Brothers circus is a romantic one of hard times and circus life during The Great Depression. Anytime I see a movie after reading the book, I wonder if I'll be disappointed. Will the movie script match the book storyline? Will the actors portray the characters well?
This movie met all my expectations. The actors did a fine job of bringing Gruen's characters to life. Pattinson, who is known for his portrayal of Edward Cullen in the Twilight movies, was the perfect Jacob. He shows just the right amount of anger, grief, longing, confidence, charm, .....etc. Yes, you can tell that I'm quite taken with his performance. Christoph Waltz plays August and gives the audience a charismatic madman instead of the two-dimensional character he could have played. Reese Witherspoon's representation of Marlena didn't always agree with my perception of the one from the novel, but that may just be the Marlena I imagined. Moviegoers who haven't read the book will be pleased with her performance. Hal Holbrook as the elderly Jacob had me close to tears in the beginning scenes.
The movie script followed the book closely, and the choices to cut certain scenes were very smart. The only thing I missed was more insight into the title. In the book, the elderly Jacob challenges the honesty of another senior citizen who claims to have carried "water for elephants." The reference to this boast is completely lost in the movie version. There is also less emphasis on the relationships that Jacob formed with the circus performers, and I missed that.
Overall, I would give this movie 4 out of 5 stars. I plan to buy the DVD when this one comes out and watch it again!