No, this isn’t another story about a celebrity caught with their pants down. On the contrary, in the new movie Water for Elephants, Robert Pattinson plays a character whose social awkwardness is more than offset by his refreshing honesty, charm, and ability to make the most out of very little. His character, Jack, has the hots for a black girl, Francine, and when she rejects his advances, he reacts with an unadorned display of emotion that is both comical and endearing.

Written and directed by Wes Anderson, who is best known for his comedic masterpieces The Grand Budapest Hotel and Grand Budapest Hotel: The Return, the film features an all-star cast and some impressive visuals. While the story itself focuses on the trials and tribulations of a handful of animals in a small American town, the scenes involving the human characters, particularly Jack, are sure to make you laugh, and probably even shed a tear or two.

Read on to find out more about Jack’s journey to self-discovery and how it all comes down in the end. 

The Most Genuine Manicure

Jack is a lumberjack hailing from Springfield, Ohio, played by Nicholas Hoult. Walking into the movie theatre, we are presented with a portrait of a sweet yet simple-minded individual whose main source of income is his disability insurance, as he is unable to work due to an accident involving a chainsaw and his leg. As a result, he is dependent on others to provide for his basic needs.

Despite this, and perhaps because of it, Jack is a completely self-sufficient, caring, and open-hearted individual who takes great pride in his appearance and in the effort it takes to keep it that way. To showcase this, the producers of Water for Elephants went above and beyond, devising a special manicures for the leading characters, inspired by each of their personalities, styles, and quirks. For example, the quirky main character, Charlie, is presented with a rose-themed design as a symbol of his charm and openness while the more reserved Dory is given a classic blue manicure, signifying her intelligence.

The Black Sheep

While on the surface, the film appears to be a light-hearted look at the trials and tribulations of four animals, as well as a coming-of-age story for Jack, it is in reality a very heartfelt examination of racism and its impact on the individuals that it comes into contact with. Indeed, one of the strongest themes in the film is the power of one’s family, and how much it means to be accepted for who you are rather than the color of your skin.

During a scene set in a bar, some of the townspeople discuss the “n” word, referring to an obese and lazy black man living in the neighborhood, with one woman saying, “I’m sure there’s a lovely Irishwoman somewhere that would like to smack that word right out of his mouth.” While some of the characters in the movie, particularly Jack, are happy to have a “samurai” or “giant” among them, they are nonetheless uncomfortable with the very existence of a black man in their midst. Despite this, the town is not entirely inhospitable to the very people it shuns. When Jack’s nephew, Randy, attempts to set him up on a date with a black girl, Randy’s friends and other local folks reveal themselves to be open-minded and kind, adding a little more color to the melting pot that is Spring­field, Ohio.

In the end, as Jack comes to terms with the fact that he is “different,” and his self-image begins to resemble that of a more traditional male beauty ideal, he embraces his black side and, in so doing, is finally able to put into practice all the lessons he has learned. While the ending seems to be a celebration of multiculturalism and inclusiveness, it is clear that all is not perfect in Jackson’s Springfield, as the town is still somewhat preoccupied with racial divides.

The Red Light Special

If you thought that Water for Elephants was going to be your typical Sundance hit, think again. Based on an award-winning novel by Lauren Myracle, the movie is being touted as one of the most anticipated releases of the year, if not the decade. The sheer volume of praise directed at the comedy-drama is indicative of its popularity and of how deeply the themes of the film connect with audiences, particularly those who identify as women. The story follows an emotionally-rundown Jack as he seeks solace at a veterinary clinic in the woods, a place he feels more comfortable than anywhere else. There, he meets a young black woman who helps him to begin the healing process and helps to restore his confidence. Along the way, we are treated to some of the most beautiful and creative cinematography you are likely to see this side of the millennium. There are moments of absolute genius in the way the scenes are framed, the lighting, and the musical accompaniment, which, as noted by some observers, is one of the best soundtracks ever assembled for a motion picture. With themes as timely as they are evergreen, Water for Elephants is something special, offering up both a compelling story and some amazing visuals that are guaranteed to leave an impact on audiences of all colors and creeds.