Neely Swanson

“Resistance” – No problem [MOVIE REVIEW]

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Jesse Eisenberg as “Marcel” in Jonathan Jakubowicz’s Resistance. courtesy of IFC Films. An IFC Films Release.

by Neely Swanson

“Resistance,” a film written and directed by Jonathan Jakubowicz, had a presumably interesting topic to cover, the wartime heroics of Marcel Marceau, and squandered it.

Marcel Marceau, the internationally famous mime, was born Marcel Mangel, the Jewish son of a butcher in Strasbourg, France. Wanting nothing more than to act, he honed his craft on local stages imitating his idol Charlie Chaplin. Marcel’s initial brush with activism was when he was recruited to find hiding places for Jewish orphans who had been ransomed from Germany.

With the imminent invasion of the Nazis in 1940, virtually the entire population of Strasbourg, on the border of Germany, evacuated the city. Marcel and his brother arrived in Limoges where they joined a resistance group dedicated to saving the lives of orphaned Jewish children. It was here that his compatriots discovered that he was an ace forger. A quick study, he produced fake passport after fake passport. His first batch was distributed to Allied soldiers come to aid the French, but his most important works of art were destined for the hundreds of children who would eventually be spirited out of France into Switzerland.

Jesse Eisenberg as “Marcel” in Jonathan Jakubowicz’s Resistance. Courtesy of IFC Films. An IFC Films Release.

With a great story such as this, it is truly a shame that Jakubowicz has produced one of the only boring Holocaust films in recent memory. As a writer, his chronological tale is quite straightforward and almost entirely expositional without significant character development among the heroic figures. Sadly, the only character to come alive and show depth and development is the arch villain Klaus Barbie, performed terrifyingly by German actor Maththias Schweighöfer. Any tension felt during this film is produced by his mere presence and all that it implies.

In trying to assemble an international cast, Jakubowicz was unable to create any cohesion or chemistry between them. The actors have all done fine work in the past, but accents, style, and mannerisms all work against them here.

Jesse Eisenberg as Marcel is categorically wrong for the role. His particular vocal mannerisms and poor miming skills work against audience identification with his character. Clémence Poésy was fine in her role of Emma, the woman Marcel longed for, and she has several dramatic moments that payoff well, but because there is a lack of chemistry between her and Eisenberg, her character never soars or produces the seminal moment she deserves.

It was oftentimes difficult to differentiate the other characters. Sometimes it was an accent problem, as in the case of Geza Rohrig who played Marcel’s brother George; other times it was a script problem with too many undefined characters.

Overall, however, this was a writing and directing problem. The story never really catches fire. We are told that Marcel Marceau was responsible for the rescue of hundreds of children. Physically, this doesn’t seem to be the case; technically it may be true if most of those children escaped because of the passports he forged. We’ll never know, as all the lines are blurry. The tale of his heroism is bookended by an opening introduction and closing explanation by General George S. Patton (Ed Harris) who used Marceau as a liaison. This, no doubt, was used to underscore bona fides that the film fails to fill in.

Opening March 27 on VOD.

 

 

 

 

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