The Zookeeper’s Wife
Wartime zoological drama with Jessica Chastain Discuss this article
Jessica Chastain has long harboured an inner Meryl Streep: you can see that defiance, mixed in with a glossy, almost remote delicateness, in movies ranging from Take Shelter to Zero Dark Thirty. Here, though, in The Zookeeper’s Wife, Chastain’s Streep gets the better of her. She goes full Sophie’s Choice as the Polish keeper of a Warsaw zoo during the Second World War. Her heavily accented life consists of tendink to the animals, talkink elephants through their painful pregnancies and hopink Hitler’s war machine stays far away from her heppy femily.
As developed from Diane Ackerman’s bestselling 2007 non-fiction book, Niki Caro’s film has been shaped as a showcase for its star. As a result, Chastain’s own natural humility gets lost. She’s better when playing against her character’s often absent husband (Johan Heldenbergh) or, more electrically, a handsome Nazi officer (Daniel Brühl).
This movie is neither too pretty nor too ugly – which might doom it to a particularly banal shade of detachment. Chastain is relaxed with some actual lion cubs, and there’s a bunny that should frankly win an Oscar. But when the film pivots to the actual scared human beings hiding down below, you get a hint of the tougher drama it might have been.
The bottom line: A rare misstep from the usually terrific Chastain.By Joshua Rothkopf
Time Out Doha,