Many of you may know that I am a published author with three books to my name. One of them is “Water For Elephants,” which is a heart-wrenching book about a girl who grows up in an elephant foster family and how she is affected by their tragic death. The film adaptation, which stars Christina Ricci and Robert Pattinson and was directed by Adam Elliot, is based on the novel. It premiered in theaters back in December 2013 and was generally well-received by audiences and critics. The film also won several awards, including Best Adapted Screenplay at the 2014 American Film Awards and the National Board of Review’s prize for Best Adapted Screenplay. In this article, I will review the movie and discuss what you can learn from it. (This article was originally published in December 2013.)
The Overall Review
If you’re looking for a “pretty girl” movie, then you’ve come to the right place. The story is told through most of the scenes in a manner that will draw you in, making you believe that you’re watching a movie about a girl named Estelle. You may be wondering how such a sweet girl turns out to be such a bitter woman, but as the story progresses, you’ll learn more about her past and what made her that way. In the beginning of the movie, she seems like the perfect, ideal daughter, someone whom you would expect to grow up and be happy. However, that all changes when her mother dies and she is forced to take on the role of a foster parent.
There are several pivotal scenes in which Estelle’s behavior changes for the worse. It starts with a scene in which she goes to a circus. There, she sees the animals chained up in a way that will haunt her for the rest of her life. It is a very emotional scene, one that will stay with you for a long time. The animals’ suffering is apparent, and it’s something that you don’t see portrayed in movies much these days. That’s a great thing. After this scene, you’ll never look at animals in the same way again.
Along with the emotional scenes, the film also contains plenty of beautiful, breathtaking shots of nature, especially in Thailand. The cinematographer, Daniele Cavanna, does an amazing job capturing the beauty of that country and its people. Even the most stunning location couldn’t match the beauty of real nature, though. One of the most heartbreaking scenes in the film has to be when the animals are set free for one last ride. You’ll be torn between joy and sadness as you watch them run freely into the forest. That scene will stay with you forever.
The Cast Of Characters
While Estelle is the protagonist of the story, the bulk of the film is focused on two separate stories: One involving Robert Pattinson’s character, Sandy, and the other involving Christina Ricci’s character, Victoria. The stories are more-or-less parallel, though Sandy’s is a bit more straightforward. We meet Sandy when he is a grown man, living a happy life with his wife. That is until his wife is hit by a car and killed, leaving him broken and alone. After this, he finds it hard to trust anyone, even his wife’s best friend, Victoria, who he meets while he’s dating the bereaved girl. This leads to some pretty intense scenes that will keep you on the edge of your seat. Victoria, on the other hand, is a con artist who cheats people out of their money. She meets Sandy while they’re both recovering from alcohol addiction. In this case, Sandy’s addiction makes his decision to protect Victoria and their daughter, Estelle, from people and events that they deem threatening, even if this means involving himself in criminal activity. They move around a lot, taking different cars to different locations. Sometimes, they use disguises. However, this all comes to light when Victoria is arrested and faces sentencing. The story of how she got this way is told in a very graphic fashion. It’s quite a shocking scene to see this beautiful, charming woman beaten and bloody, her teeth showing and the guards having to hold her down.
The novel on which the film is based was written by Michael Green. He adapted his own work for the big screen, and, in turn, the adapted work of Michael Crichton, one of the most famous living novelists. Crichton, who also wrote the novel “The Lost World,” died in 2012. Michael Green won the 2009 Hammett Prize for “Green Eyes,” which is also the title of his first novel. He also wrote the screenplays for the films “Spiderman” and “Robin Hood,” among others.
The movie itself was written by Billy Ray and Eric Roth. They previously collaborated on “The Lovemaker,” another movie based on a Crichton novel. They also wrote the novel “The Book of Eli,” which was made into a movie by the famously named “Pan’s” adventure movie company. In this case, it was based on a true story and starred Denzel Washington. “The Book of Eli” is one of the few recent movies that I’ve actually seen, and I think it’s one of the best movies of the year. It’s an epic and a historical fiction about a man who follows a biblical directive to “fix” the world’s ills by hunting down liars and tyrants. It’s a great mixture of serious subjects mixed with campy humor.
“Water For Elephants” is another example of a movie that straddles the line between being a blockbuster and a drama. The story starts out funny and light, with plenty of banter between the leads, but as the story continues, it takes a darker turn. While the story itself isn’t entirely serious, the themes certainly are. There is some really heavy material here, and if you’re not prepared for it, you may not enjoy the film as much as you would have had it been marketed as a comedy. (I’ll discuss the themes in more detail below.)
Everyone in this movie does a great job. While the script isn’t exactly comedic, it still contains plenty of funny moments. One of my favorite comedic performances comes from John Malkovich as Victoria’s father. He plays the role in a very campy fashion, complete with wigs and over-the-top, exaggerated acting. I also love that they wrote the role of Victoria’s drug-dealing boyfriend, Teddy, with such ambiguity. This keeps you guessing as to what his motives might be. As for the more serious aspects of the story, the performances here are all very good. Christina Ricci is very convincing as a deeply troubled woman who is constantly in pain and dealing with her own personal hell. (She’s also stunningly attractive, which doesn’t hurt!) The story could have used more emotion, but as far as acting goes, it’s very well done.
While the majority of the movie takes place in the U.S., Thailand is a frequent stopover for the main characters. This is where Sandy meets Victoria for the first time, as they both have to travel there for work. Traveling to different countries for a film is expensive and hard to coordinate. While it may be tempting to shoot in exotic locations for the scenery, it’s usually not done for budgetary reasons. However, for “Water For Elephants,” the producers actually did it for the sake of the story. They wanted to show that Sandy and Victoria could go anywhere in the world and continue their search for a new beginning, so they took advantage of this opportunity and used some of the most breathtaking, breathtaking locations in Thailand. In my opinion, it really works. It doesn’t hurt that some of these locations are also some of the most expensive places to shoot. (I’m guessing the cost of getting the permit might be more than the cost of the plane tickets!) The scenes in which the elephants are used are especially breathtaking. Elephant nature documentaries are some of the most popular films on YouTube, so it’s no wonder why they were used here. This type of video usually doesn’t contain any dialogue, so it makes for great viewing if you’re looking for something more family-friendly. If you’re able to sit through an R-rated film, you’ll also get to see some very graphic, explicit sex scenes. (I won’t give them away, but just know that they’re there.)