"To talent and illusion!" is the toast as three circus people raise their glasses in a posh Depression-era state car, a train full of animals and roustabouts and fat ladies and strongmen pulling them to fame and fortune in the next town. In that moment, there is some hope that everything might just work out. That Jacob, the new stowaway who also happens to be a vet, will improve the quality of life of the animals. That Marlena, the star performer, will attract the crowds and find that her love and dedication will be enough to change a man's character. That August, her despotic husband and the circus ringmaster, is really just misunderstood. But then the moment passes, that optimism itself an illusion.
Water for Elephants, an adaptation of the Sara Gruen bestseller about the Benzini Brothers Circus in 1931, brings its big top to the big screen. Starring Reese Witherspoon as Marlena, Robert Pattinson as Jacob, and Christoph Waltz as August, the tale sticks closely (though not precisely) to the novel and seems likely to please fans of the book—in addition to picking up some Twi-hards who are keen to see Pattinson in any role.
The story is told in flashback when an elderly Jacob wanders onto modern-day circus grounds in search of a respite from his lonely and boring life at a retirement home. He finds a listening ear when he mentions he was with the Benzini Bros. in 1931, the year of its big disaster.
In fact, it's a personal disaster that sets the stage for Jacob's life with circus. Raised in a loving home with parents who sacrificed to put their only son through veterinary school at Cornell, their death in a car accident on the day of his final exams—and the subsequent loss of the family home—led young Jacob ...1