Movie Review, Water for Elephants, directed by Barry Levinson

By MILT GROSS | Dec 10, 2013

This was a depressing, interesting, exciting, comedy that wasn’t at all funny. It just had a happy -- as in happier than the rest of the movie -- ending.

Part of the depressing mood could have been because this 2011 121-minute DVD takes place during the Great Depression, the one where so many people were out of work and the outlook was bleak.

As a kid, I remember hoboes coming to the door of our house and my mother feeding them, while they sat on the back porch. This was shortly after the Depression, and plenty of folk still were out of work. We had a low stone wall facing the street from our front yard (in Pennsylvania, dooryards were labeled front yards). We came to understand that the hoboes would mark a stone in front of a house that gave out food.

Although Webster defines “hobo” correctly enough, a person without money who wanders from place to place, I always thought that term somehow made that terrible state of affairs not as horrible as the real thing.

In this sad comedy, Jacob Jankowski, played by Robert Pattinson, is forced to leave Cornell, where he has all but graduated as a veterinarian.  His father passes away, leaving him penniless. He couldn’t finish paying his college expenses, so became a wanderer.

He comes onto a circus train, where he meets Rosy, the elephant that becomes the lead attraction, and Marlene, played by Reese Witherspoon, a beautiful blond married to the show’s owner. Marlene soon becomes Jacob’s lead attraction. She rides Rosie, while Jacob becomes the elephant’s trainer.

Love blossoms, violence flares, the story of the circus during the Great Depression continues, the evil circus owner and Marlene’s wife becomes jealous, and the plot continues until there is a death -- of whom you can learn by watching the movie -- and how -- you also can learn of this horrible tragedy by watching the movie.

The end is happy, scenes of many years of happiness, and a conclusion to make you happy you’ve watched it. sells it for $5.49 or Netflix will rent it to you.

The circus, the attractions, the behind-the-scenes tale, and a satisfying evening of good viewing of Water for Elephants.

Milt Gross can be reached for corrections, harassment, or other purposes at

Milton M. Gross Copyright 2013

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