Friday, 6 May 2011

My First Review is a Special One

In advance, I would just like to say that these reviews are going to be my personal opinions. You may not agree with them, you may not like what I say, but this is what I think, so suck it up and deal. It's not going to stop me from posting.

Anyway, since this is my first proper review, I thought I would make it a special one.

Water for Elephants.

Yes, the movie I have been looking forward to for over a year. I first read the book (amazing, read it if you haven't, it's my all-time favourite) about a year and a half ago, and I remember when they first announced they were making it as a film. I cannot even describe my joy when I found out the cast. Three of my favourite actors in a film based on my favourite book? It couldn't have sounded any better to me.

And then the pictures from filming came out, and it was everything I imagined it to be.

So months later, I find out I have to wait until the following spring before I can see it, and I'm a little bit pissed. But Fox are forgiven, because I'm still so damn intrigued.

Anyway, so two weeks ago I got my notification saying I could buy tickets for it, so I did straight away, for the first night of course. I had already got my mother interested and she read the book and loved it too, so she was coming along with me.

And then the call came on Tuesday morning. I won't go into the whole premiere thing right now, I may do a separate blog post later. But it was amazing. I cried, I laughed, I smiled so much my cheeks hurt by the end of the film. But I don't think I could have made a sound judgement on it, because I was too emotional. So I just accepted it as amazing the first time round, and reserved proper judgement until the next time. Which is where this review finally begins.

The film was pretty much everything I thought it would be.

I love the story, and I always held a little reservation about how they could put it into a film and have it still be as amazing as it was in the book. I had seen Francis Lawrence's directing before in I Am Legend, good film (let's not focus on that ending). Rodrigo Prieto's cinematography was bound to be amazing, since he worked on Brokeback Mountain. And the stars. Well, like I said, three brilliant actors involved, and the often overlooked Hal Holbrook, who made me cry as Old Jacob.

The acting was very good, in my opinion. Robert Pattinson showed he could hold his own in a cast which included three Oscar winners, and still stand out. His facial expressions were amazing, so brilliant at channeling his emotions. In my opinion, he has never acted better. And I've seen pretty much every film he's ever done. It didn't hurt that he was also pretty nice to look at as well. It showed in the film that he can also laugh at himself. I won't ruin the particular scene for anyone who hasn't seen it yet; all I will say is, remember the Storage Trunk ;) But he made me laugh, and cry a lot, so I think he did a pretty damn good job in it.

I also liked Reese Witherspoon. Was it her best performance? No (though she is an Academy Award winner, and her performance in Walk the Line was just about brilliant), but it wasn't her worst, and she was believable. I admit when I first heard she was cast as Marlena, I was a bit dubious. I never really imagined her to be that much older than Jacob, but now I really can't imagine anyone else. At times it seemed like she was just reveling in the fact that she got to wear pretty costumes and ride an elephant, but she looked stunning and graceful, and there are points where my heart just breaks for her.

I agree with what is being said about the chemistry between the two. It doesn't have that magic spark, and there's never really that much intensity. He is smitten with her from the moment he lays eyes on her, and she just seems as if she is being distracted by a shiny new toy. It doesn't seem genuine, and feels a little forced, but the two actors make it passable. I've definitely seen worse on-screen relationships.

Christoph Waltz was pretty much perfect for me. He's just like I imagined the paranoid schizophrenic August to be, and he plays villains so incredibly well. I think someone called him a "watered-down Hans Landa", which it pretty much is; no, it doesn't reach the brillance of Inglorious Basterds, but like Reese, I don't think anything ever will. That being said, I don't like the way Christoph is being typecast as the villain now (see: Green Hornet and the upcoming Three Muskateers) but he does do a spectacular job at it. He is genuinely terrifying at some points, and he is so horrific as a person that you can't help but hate him. But you love to do it. There were points when I was gritting my teeth at him and wanted to hit him so hard, but that's what's meant to happen, and he acted the part so damn well.

I have said before many times that I don't like the way they have toned it down to a 12 just to appeal to Rob's extensive fan-base of teenage girls. I much prefer the graphic, darker and grittier scenes in the book, but I have to praise Richard LaGravenese for staying true to the novel. In some ways it actually improved, as in the book I found myself wanting to skip ahead to the 1930s chapters, as nice as the present-day ones are, so I like the way LaGravenese has instead chosen to nicely book-end the film with the "Old Jacob" parts instead of constant interjections that break up the action. Which is something else I want to add. I absolutely loved the ending. I thought it was beautifully done, so emotional and just perfectly fitting. It's made me cry both times. It's cathartic.

I think Francis Lawrence did an amazing job in bringing this book to life. The cinematography was beautiful, the sets and costumes were stunning, and the acting was brilliant. Not to mention the elephant, Tai, who plays Rosie. She was wonderful, and I really did find myself so emotionally attached to her. She acted so brilliantly, and it was easy to see why the stars loved working with her so much. Which is another point: you could see that they were all so proud of what they had done, and how much they enjoyed working on the production, and that for me made it all the more worthwhile.

Another thing I have to add is that I am listening to the soundtrack as I write this. James Newton Howard (who I share a birthday with!) has done a fantastic job, adding in touches of 30s music with gorgeous piano pieces which really make the film more emotional. Just listening to the last track can bring tears to my eyes. Definitely in my top 5 of all time. Give it a listen if you're into that kind of thing.

So, basically, this has been, personally, my favourite film of the year so far. I had such an emotional attachment to it from the beginning of the production, and it lived up to my expectations. I really want people to see how good Rob is as an actor outside Twilight, and I really think this film shows that he has a long career ahead of him. What I was struck by was how wonderfully different it was to anything I have seen in a long time, though it may have followed the same basic structure (a struggle for love faced by obstacles with an ultimate triumph). I sincerely urge everyone to go and see it.
Verdict: A valient effort, a beautifully made film that may not win any awards for its acting or screenplay, but is very deserving of a wide audience and respect.


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