Just saw a truly wonderful late entry into the Oscar Race, Fox 2000’s “The Book Thief”, a small “little” film that is anything but. “The Book Thief” creeps up and steals your heart away and leaves you devastated. Oscar, are you watching?
It’s World War II and an unseen narrator eerily sets the scene. Who this narrator is slowly to be revealed is one of the main mysteries of “The Book Thief.” Is it Geoffrey Rush? The film’s leading man. Or just who is it?
Of course, this immediately sets up the greatest of film dynamics which is the audience wanting to know “What’s going to happen next?” And with “The Book Thief” that suspense is maintained literally til the last frame. Which is really an achievement.
We’re in a familiar setting, Germany during WW II. In fact, it seems to resemble very closely another German back-dropped war drama “The Reader” which won Kate Winslet one Oscar and two Golden Globes.
“The Book Thief”could land a slew of Oscar nods, too. Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Geoffrey Rush) and Best Supporting Actress (Emily Watson) Best Adapted Screenplay and maybe more.
It depends on just how wily Fox 2000, sometimes referred to as Big Fox, plays its’ Oscar campaign from here on out. Fox Searchlight, of course, has a sweeping winner with “12 Years a Slave”. But “The Book Thief” should gets its’ due also.
IF enough Academy members get to see it in time to nominate it.
Geoffrey Rush gives one of his most beguiling and sweetly sympathetic performances as the adoptive father of the titular heroine, the child Leisl played by newcomer Sophie Nelisse, who is the Book Thief.
And Emily Watson gives hands down one of the best performances of her career as Leisl’s turbulent adoptive mother who is practising tough love with the child for most of the movie.
So familiar is this setting,i half-expected Kate Winslet to bicycle around the corner in braids any second. The aqua hue of the light is almost the same color of the lighting in “The Reader.”
The Nazi book burning that really sets the film in motion is frightening, and Leisl, who loves books so passionately that she begins to steal them, is traumatized by this event that she witnesses as a choir member of the Hitler Youth singing “Deustcheland Uber Alles.”
She even is so bold to steal one of the still smoldering books from the embers of the pile in one of the film’s pivotal moments. It’s still burning and as her kindly doting adoptive father Geoffrey Rush hurries her home, she starts coughing from the smoke that is coming from the still burning book hidden under her coat.
Rush takes the book from her then hides it under his coat. And more I cannot reveal, because the plot involves and tricks you with its’ many twists and turns that are its’ strengths. As well as the superb performances of Sophie Nelisse, Rush and Watson.
Don’t read any reviews that might spoil the delight of experiencing “The Book Thief” for the first time, not knowing what was going to happen. Just know that it COULD be nominated for Best Picture, though nobody is predicting it for the moment. BUT I AM.
Germany, the Halocaust, the Nazis, WWII, Academy Award Winner Geoffrey Rush, an adorable little girl heroine, it’s catkip to Oscar Voters, and to me as well. See it!