Chillin' with my elephant.
Normally I'd take a paragraph to make fun of Robert Pattinson before doing anything as foolish as talk about the film, but luckily I don't have to go off book to do it this time because Pattinson more noticeably out of his depth in Water for Elephants then he's ever been before. He probably gives one of the better twilight performances, give it his best shot in Remember Me, but in Water For Elephants feels like the grown up leagues, and here there be Oscar Winners. To say that Pattinson gets blown of the screen by Christophe Waltz is to undersell it. I feel like I need a much grander metaphor that won't be discovered by language for about 10,000 years because it takes you out of the film how much better Waltz is. It's staggering. And playing off an actor only emphasizes how much of an empty vessel Pattinson is, he's capable of being OK, but when required to bring intensity, passion, humor, joy or anything else he just can't do it. Everything hits a permanent note of sullen shyness. And to be honest he's much more guilt of the crime people always accuse Kristen Stewart of, which is doing the same awkward shtick every time with no trace of nuance. Very much a boy amongst men here.
But having said that Pattinson's flaws as an actor don't make him an obnoxious screen presence, just an invisible one, so he's pretty irrelevant to whether Water For Elephants can be considered good or not. And to be honest every time the film flirted with something interesting, it kept regressing into a fairly rote melodrama in which Pattinson pursues Reese Witherspoon seemingly because she's Waltz' wife and because the fans demand it. There's a much more engaging film about someone trying to keep a circus afloat in the depression mixed in amongst the cliches, and for that I can't be to hateful to this film. It feels like a smooth, polished old-school studio movie someone might have made in the fifties and there was a certain charm to that. It also recreated depression era America very well, and like I say Waltz performance is pretty immense, ringing everything out of his mostly inconsistent and in the end cheaply villainous character and giving the film a breath of much needed life. I mostly enjoyed Witherspoon's performance too, its a bit of a nothing role, but she brought as much as she could I think. What holds it back is its inability to veer from exactly what you expect it to be, right down to the entirely pointless beginning and end present day tags where Pattinson is played by Hal Holbrook. There's too much of a sense of going through the motions.
Having said that though, I did get a bit more out of this film then I was expecting. The titular elephant did some cool tricks and that was awesome, and I did enjoy the stuff about the circus, because even if every structural note and word of this movie seems to have been produced in template, that was at least some rich subject matter. An accomplished prestige movie for those who don't know what a prestige movie can be, it's OK I guess. But should be the first nail in Pattinson's coffin I think as far as having a post Twilight career goes.