Student Voice


April 25, 2024




‘Water for Elephants’ enchanting, visually stimulating

May 5, 2011

“Water for Elephants” follows a veterinary student, Jacob (Robert Pattison), during the Great Depression as he drops out after his parents are killed and jumps onto a train to find work. He happens to land on a traveling circus traveling across America competing against the Ringling Brothers.

This circus is headed by August (Christoph Waltz) a ruthless man who will do anything to keep money coming in during this time of economic crisis.  Along with his wife and star attraction, Marlena (Reese Witherspoon), August has created a spectacle to appease all audiences. Jacob does all the lowest jobs until coming into contact with Marlena and realizes one of her horses need to be put down. August goes against the idea but Jacob takes it into his own hands to kill the horse, this wins August’s affection as Jacob gets a new job as the circus’ vet.

After a while Jacob becomes close with August, and more importantly, close with his wife Marlena. He spends time with both of them only to start getting feelings for Marlena. Eventually August strikes gold by getting an elephant for the circus that his esteemed wife must now learn to ride for the show. Through the elephant we see the relationship blossom between Jacob and Marlena, while we also see just how ruthless and aggressive August can be when something doesn’t go his way.

Finally, Robert Pattison has showed me that he can bring life to a character with true emotion. His relationship with Witherspoon is very believable and strong. Also the hatred and tension given by Waltz is terrific. Waltz really tears down the screen with his antagonist character heightening the tension between the three lead roles. The supporting cast is great with many characters playing their roles very well. The other major character is the elephant herself as she becomes the centerpiece of the love story. 

Not only is the elephant a great part of the story it also looks beautiful in all of the ways they make it do tricks in the circus. The visuals themselves are all good and you really feel immersed in the time period. The circus aspect is great, a good change of environment for a love story to take place in. The only real gripe I had with “Water for Elephants” was that Reese Witherspoon’s character felt flat at times and did not capture the screen like the two male leads did. I felt the connection between Pattison and Witherspoon but there was still something missing.

All in all “Water for Elephants” is the best movie I have seen this year not only for its visuals, setting, story, and romantic connection but because Pattison really got me submerged into the life his character was living. At times he was as down as you could be while at other times you felt jubilation when things went right. Also Christoph Waltz put up another great performance as only he can.

Dustyn Dubuque is a history major and geography minor that has a love and passion for film. He watches over 100 films each year and loves Academy Awards season.