Someone described melodrama to me the other day as “unearned emotion” and that’s a helpful way to look at a few of this week’s offerings. Firstly the glossy adaptation of Sara Gruen’s bestselling novel of romance and tragedy at the circus, Water for Elephants. Twilight’s Robert Pattinson plays veterinary student Jacob who, after the death of his parents, runs away to join Christoph Waltz’s struggling Depression-era circus. There he falls in love with Waltz’s downtrodden but beautiful wife Reese Witherspoon (and also Rosie the downtrodden but beautiful new elephant).
Director Francis Lawrence makes a token attempt to show us the gritty and desperate side of Depression life but in the end the high fructose corn syrup of traditional Hollywood romance smothers everything. Pattinson remains dead behind the eyes as always, Witherspoon fails to convince as an acrobat and Waltz repeats his Oscar-winning psychopathic Nazi from Inglourious Basterds only without the great Tarantino dialogue.