Monday, December 9, 2013

The Book Thief

Starring: Geoffrey Rush, Emily Watson, Sophie Nelisse, Ben Schnetzer
Director: Brian Percival
Running Time: 2 hours, 11 minutes
Rating: PG-13

Oi. I was so hoping to LOVE this one. Based on the novel by Markus Zusak, "The Book Thief" takes us on a journey through Nazi Germany, and our protagonist is a young girl, Liesel. The film seems to have so much promise, but I was disappointed that this turned out to be kind of a doozie. There are shining moments, namely every scene with Geoffrey Rush, but it went just a little too long, where it could be much tighter in spots. The film’s narrator is Death, which brought me down a little, even more so than a story about the Holocaust would anyway.

Hitler’s removal of all suspected communists from Germany includes Liesel’s mother, so the young girl is sent to live with Hans and Rosa (Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson.) For each one of Rosa’s nags and complaints, Hans gives a wink and a grin. Geoffrey Rush gets better and better with every role. Illiterate when she arrives to their house, Hans teaches Liesel to read and write, using a chalkboard that covers the walls of their basement. I would have had so much fun playing school with this! It is touching – the only book little Liesel has to read is one about grave digging.

One evening, there is a knock at the door: it is Max, the son of family friends, to whom Hans and Rosa owed a favor. They are essentially forced into hiding Max (Ben Schnetzer), being that he is a Jew, but they don’t seem to think twice about helping out this young man and keeping their word to his parents.

Max and Liesel’s friendship revolves around reading, writing and books. Liesel begins breaking into people’s homes (namely the Mayor’s), bringing home books to read to Max. The family’s secret is almost ruined when Liesel’s friend Rudy catches and confronts her. Rudy is played by the adorable Nico Liersch. He’s sweeter than Dennis the Menace, but reminds me of him. I want this blond headed child.

Thinking back, I still don’t fully understand why Death had to be the narrator of the story. I would have much preferred it to be Hans, Max or Liesel. Or anyone else. That was kind of a downer. Several scenes could be shaved off to pick up the pace. I didn’t necessarily see the point of showing Hans going to serve in the Army for about a week, or little Rudy’s fascination with Jesse Owens. The story shifts its focus so much that we sometimes forget about Max hiding in the basement.

I did enjoy Geoffrey Rush’s accordion playing. See this movie for that charming element, but be warned that you won't feel good at the end.

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