Marcel Marceau, born Mangel, a strange name to younger generations, was a mime. But before he was famous for that, he was a member of the French Resistance. Jonathan Jakubowicz’s Resistance, about Marcel’s (Jesse Eisenberg) contribution to that group, is an unlikely member for two reasons. The first is his arts background, a line of work that most communities deride. The second is his selfishness, a quality he doesn’t know but we know about because his brother Alain (Felix Moati) gives him crap for it. Surprisingly for everyone, he perfectly fits the group. Part of their work is rescuing children and he’s the only person who can actually makes these kids forget about war. He reaches his hand out to one of these orphans, Elsbeth (Bella Ramsay), who takes his hand, signaling to the other kids of their safety.
But that safety doesn’t last long and the resistance knows this. One of the fighters (Geza Rohrig) tells the group that they have to train the kids what to do to survive. This one training session shows character development, showing Elsbeth evolving from child to leader. It has the potential to make Eisenberg flex his acting muscles. It also makes his character use his character illusions for good. One session has him pretending to be Hitler. Which is just him doing Chaplin’s Adenoid Hynkel character, again adding levity to their situation. It’s both a product of Eisenberg’s projection and the sound design that we can hear him while he walks to the foreground. Is it cringe worthy? Yes, but that’s not Eisenberg’s fault.
This story’s emotional peaks and valleys are wild. We already have tragedy and levity, but Resistance adds romance into this mix. Jesse Eisenberg impersonating Hitler is insane enough. It also has him as Marcel making out with a fellow resistance fighter, Emma (Clemence Poesy), who is also his cousin. This part of Marceau’s life isn’t the easiest to fact check. The Nazis, who have followed Marceau and the Jewish kids to France, interrupt this make out session happening in the street. Marcel tries to get them out of this mess by convincing the Nazis that Emma’s father is an office in Vichy France. And yes, it is politically incorrect of me to shame people for their looks. But they don’t look young enough for their parents to matter in this equation.
There’s the irony of Eisenberg playing a mime only for him to talk the way he does in his other features. Anyway, this, on paper, is Marcel’s story, but the side characters or the period touches distract me from him. There’s Emma disguising herself as a Frenchwoman after one of their attacks on the Nazis. It reminds me of this idea of hiding as a tactic. But the story buries its ideas with war film clichés. There are too many scenes of the Resistance’s group huddles. And those scenes are excuses for the group to be mean to Marcel and for Marcel to prove his usefulness. There are also not enough scenes with poor Elsbeth. The people behind this film have good intentions, but outside of emotional sincerity, their execution is lacking.
Resistance will be available on iTunes.