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Film Review: Jessica Chastain is Steadfast as ‘The Zookeeper’s Wife’

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Average: 5 (2 votes)

CHICAGO – Jessica Chastain is a memorable and glamorous actress, who continues to challenge herself with in-depth and complex roles. “The Zookeeper’s Wife” is her latest, and her performance outweighs the formulaic based-on-truth story, set during the Holocaust.

HollywoodChicago.com Oscarman rating: 3.0/5.0
Rating: 3.0/5.0

That setting covers the years 1939 to the end of the war, in the city of Warsaw, Poland (and yes, it is a film where people speak english with accents). Those vital years in history are framed by the key story, which involves the Warsaw Zoo and the proprietors there. If there is a formula to a Holocaust story – and as a reminder the Holocaust was the systematic attempt to eliminate the Jewish population and other oppressed peoples during the rule of Nazi Germany – then it becomes about the people who stuck their necks out as the rescuers during the era, then get to a point where they are almost caught, and then are lionized after peace arrives again. The evil Nazis, scenes of the ghettos and trains to the concentration camps are all in the film, a reminder of horror not too far removed, and yet nothing new is presented on the topic except for the zoo.

Antonina Zabinski (Jessica Chastain) is the wife of the proprietor (Johan Heldenbergh) of the Warsaw Zoo in the summer of 1939. They are passionate zookeepers, and their attraction is very popular. Even Lutz Heck (Daniel Brühl), a zoologist from Germany, admires the zoo and speaks of collaboration with the couple. Everything changes in September of 1939, when the Nazis invade and occupy Poland.

The zoo becomes a artillery depot during the occupation, and the animals are eliminated. The zookeeper’s family is hunkered down in their living quarters, but the oppression of the Jewish ghettoes in Warsaw becomes daily news. The zookeepers decide that their home will become a hiding place for several Jewish individuals and families, risking everything with the Nazis nearby… including Lutz Heck, who returns as a Nazi officer with designs on Antonina.

“The Zookeeper’s Wife” opened everywhere on March 31st. See local listings for 3D theaters and show times. Featuring the Jessica Chastain, Daniel Brühl, Johan Heldenbergh and Ryszard Zabinski. Screenplay adapted by Angela Workman, based on a book by Diane Ackerman. Directed by Niki Caro. Rated “R”

StarContinue reading for Patrick McDonald’s full review of “The Zookeeper’s Wife”

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Jessica Chastain and Friends in ‘The Zookeeper’s Wife’
Photo credit: Focus Features

StarContinue reading for Patrick McDonald’s full review of “The Zookeeper’s Wife”

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