TIFF 2019: Resistance (Jonathan Jakubowicz, 2019, France/USA/Germany/UK)

Resistance, the third and latest feature from director Jonathan Jakubowicz, is first and foremost a vehicle for Jesse Eisenberg. Chronicling Marcel Marceau’s time in the French resistance, in particular his rescue of a group of Jewish orphans, the film relies heavily on the performance of its lead. While the scenes of Eisenberg miming are charming, Jesse Eisenberg as Marceau is Jesse Eisenberg with a French accent. That’s not to say it is a bad performance. It is simply hard to separate Eisenberg's performance of Marcel Marceau with so many other performances from Eisenberg.
            The rest of the cast is largely overshadowed. Ed Harris as George S. Patton has about two minutes of screen time. The same can be said for Edgar Ramirez. Clemence Poesy spends the film largely looking shocked and in fear.  The one actor who stands out amongst the bunch is Matthias Schweighofer as the Butcher of Lyon, Klaus Barbie.  His performance is genuinely effective and chilling, and the success of the film’s finale – involving a tense search on a train – is largely due to his presence.
            Resistance has a promising beginning, a bit of lull in the midsection, and a strong finale. One of the main issues with the film is that Marceau’s character is seen immediately bonding with the orphans from the very beginning of the film. Yet we also know that he is supposed to be selfish and focused on building his artistic career. The script would have perhaps been more interesting had we seen a more dramatic transformation of Marceau from selfishness to selflessness.
            On a similar note, Marceau’s later successes as an entertainer feel largely absent from much of the film. We have little sense of how the dramatic events from his youth impacted his life later on. It would have been interesting to show Marceau later in life reflecting on these events. It is presumed that the audience has some familiarity with Marceau, but for many this will not be the case.
            Perhaps the biggest let down with Resistance is its reliance on formula. I wish Jakubowicz had taken a more experimental or unique approach to the narrative.



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