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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    ‘Elephants’ an artful adaptation of novel

    It’s the redeeming role that Robert Pattinson has been waiting for. Alongside the ever-beautiful veteran Reese Witherspoon and an endearing elephant named Rosie, the “”Twilight”” hunk shines (though he doesn’t sparkle) in the newly released “”Water for Elephants.””

    Pattinson’s brooding demeanor actually works for him in this dramatic, unexpectedly dark film about the highs and lows of a 1931 circus. Pattinson plays Jacob Jankowski, a first generation Polish-American who accidentally joins a circus after a series of tragedies alter the course of his life. Jacob falls in love with the beautiful performer Marlena (Witherspoon) while training the new elephant Rosie, but their love wreaks havoc on the circus, since Marlena is married to the abusive ringleader August (Christoph Waltz).

    “”Water for Elephants”” is based on the bestselling novel by Sara Gruen, which was written during the “”National Novel Writing Month”” contest. Despite some alterations, the adaptation was well executed. Check out some of the differences:

    Meandering journey vs. fast-paced drama

    The book is written from Jacob’s first person perspective, which alternates between flashbacks of Jacob’s circus days and his current life in a nursing home. Jacob seasons major plot points with all his thoughts, emotions and every minute step along the way. As a result, the book is more of a long, personal journey through Jacob’s life than a thrilling romantic drama.

    The first 70 pages of the book are taken care of in the first five minutes of the film. The film changes the alternating narrative structure to a simple frame tale that places the most emphasis on Jacob’s circus days. Although it isn’t as complex, the story is still emotionally charged and the film develops a faster pace and heightened sense of drama.

    ‘Water for Elephants’ vs. ‘Moonshine for a Married Woman’

    In the novel, Jacob gets in an argument at the nursing home because one of the other old men claims that he carried “”water for elephants”” in a circus. Jacob knows from personal experience that no one could carry as much water as an elephant would need to drink, and he calls the man out on his absurd claim. The phrase becomes a running joke throughout the rest of the nursing-home narrative and explains the book’s title.

    Since the nursing home aspect of the story is seriously reduced in the movie, the character who coins the phrase “”water for elephants”” was cut from the script entirely. The story instead centers around Jacob’s love story with Marlena, so perhaps this calls for a change in title. Given the story’s Prohibition setting, something like “”Moonshine for a Married Woman”” may be more appropriate.

    Fabulous feminist vs. damsel in distress

    In both the book and the movie, it’s no secret that Marlena’s husband August is abusive. However, in the book, Marlena consciously chooses to leave the circus as well as her relationship. She lives on her own for a while before finally confessing her love to Jacob — and the couple returns to the circus a few days later, on Marlena’s own free will, in order to keep performing.

    In the movie, Jacob convinces Marlena to leave August, and she only agrees because Jacob promises to take care of her instead. However, August catches them later that night (after the two have had sex, of course), and kidnaps Marlena to take her back to the circus. These events add a whole new sense of excitement to the romance but unfortunately downplay the book’s portrayal of female empowerment.

    Double trouble vs. demonized douche

    In the book, the circus is owned by a ringleader named Uncle Al, and August is only the head trainer of the animals. Uncle Al, like August, is a violent and abusive villain, but August at least has a reason — he is a paranoid schizophrenic. This is no excuse for August’s abuse of animals and women, but it is an explanation.

    In the movie, August is the owner of the circus as well as the ringleader and the head trainer. The film removes the character of Uncle Al completely and assigns all of his aspects to August as well. This simplifies the film greatly but sells August as the ultimate douche. After all, he’s become two villains in the body of one, and audiences have no explanation for his violence and villainy.


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