This mostly faithful adaptation of the popular novel does nothing
wrong. So if it doesn't quite reach the teary heights of The Notebook,
that's maybe because it takes no great chances, either. Extremely well
made in the Hollywood Prestige Picture manner, the gloss that comes
off the screen is the burnished shine of professionalism — but it's
not quite ragged or raucous or dusty enough to convey the anarchic
life of the circus that is more background here, whereas in the book
it was the very fabric of the story. In that sense, WATER also feels a
bit underpopulated, as though the extras didn't work every day. But
the leads are splendid. Robert Pattison keeps it simple, restraining
his emotion without becoming wooden. Plus, he has the period face of a
vintage Chesterfield model, perfect for the era. Reese Witherspoon
glows with genuine movie star glamour; she and Robert quietly ignite
the screen with their movie-magic first kiss. And of course no one
does simmering psycho better than Christoph Walz (but careful, CW,
don't become the go-to guy for just one kind of role). There are
lovely small touches: Rosie the Elephant's freckled skin, a home movie
montage, James Newton Howard's old-fashioned score. Those who have not
read the book will have the additional advantage of not missing a big
surprise at the end, because the filmmakers have restructured the
story. It still works. — Jeff Schultz


  1. Jeff, Good to read your balanced review. The Times in NY came out with one of their pans which had a couple of nice things to say at the end of a long negative review. Another one of those cleverly crafted self- indulgent pieces by critics who seem too wanting to keep to the literal meaning of their job description, without allowing much room for potential audience enjoyment. I had been thinking of passing on seeing this, even though I loved the book, and now I'm goIng to go and I'm sure I will enjoy the celluloid experience. Thanks! Your heartfelt well written & well thought critexts are a pleasure to read.


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