Trying to find something sweet or heartfelt in a film concerning the Holocaust is not the easiest task or one that should be attempted. Sure, Life is Beautiful managed to find some laughs in a Nazi death camp, but I personally thought that movie was pushing the limits of good taste and believability. The Book Thief is the next film that attempts to have a heart and some tender moments during the Nazi rise in Germany. Please take notice that I used the word “attempts” when concerning The Book Thief.
The Book Thief tells the story of a young girl named Liesel (Sophie Nélisse) who is adopted by a working class German couple during the rise of Third Reich. The always stellar Geoffrey Rush plays her adoptive father who teaches young Liesel how to read and love books. Unfortunately, all this learning and reading makes for a very boring first hour of The Book Thief. The tension does pick up when the family decides to hide a Jewish refugee in their basement, but even that story is extinguished early and does not live up to its full potential in the grand scheme of The Book Thief.
My biggest problem with The Book Thief is its soft hand when handling the Holocaust. The Book Thief tries to be to sweet for most of the film until its gut punch of an ending. You can’t expect to be considered for award season when you hold back punches dealing with the Nazi terror that engulfed Europe, especially when there is a film like 12 Years a Slave out that shows you the horror of another brutal Holocaust that took place on American soil. Not even Geoffrey Rush’s typical solid performance can save The Book Thief from its sappiness and slow pace.
Overall, I give The Book Thief 2 out of 4 stars.
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