The Best Thief in the World

DVD Watch

The Best Thief in the World

Showtime Entertainment, $26.99

The thefts Izzy (Michael Silverman) commits when he breaks into his neighbors' apartments are hardly worth speaking of – when he bothers to steal anything at all. "What's the most disturbing thing you could ever come home to?" he asks a friend as they peruse his latest victims' home, before electing to move all the furniture from the bedroom to the living room, careful to keep the bed perfectly made and tucked. But this calculated disturbance inflicted on a neighbor is nothing compared to what Izzy finds when he returns to his own home: His father has returned from the hospital well before achieving any significant recovery because insurance has run out. Already overwhelmed by three children, Izzy's mother (Mary-Louise Parker) must become a round-the-clock caregiver, while fully aware that her oldest is getting into more serious trouble all the time.

Energized by a tremendous performance from Parker (why don't we see her a lot more often?), this witty and affecting New York story from writer/director Jacob Kornbluth (Haiku Tunnel) captures the turbulent internal storms that parents and children stir up in one another. As a mom with little respect for authority who is forced to assert her own, Parker exudes intelligence and verve through the gaps and cracks of what could have simply been a wall of parental frustration. We see her own childhood reflected through reactions to her son, and her disappointment that understanding all too intimately what he's feeling and thinking is actually so little help in protecting or reining him in.

If the balance of intimate observation tilts somewhat more in mom's favor, Kornbluth's sensitivity to the half-truths and thwarted expectations experienced on both sides distinguishes him as an astute and emotionally engaged observer of contemporary family life. Though the film briefly slides onto shakier ground – first when a two-dimensionally dyspeptic grandma arrives to berate Izzy's mother and then later with a climactic fire – these lapses in dramaturgy are eminently forgivable for the great nuance and generosity achieved in the film's central relationship, up to the very last shot. A heartfelt and scrappy indie that should have garnered more attention when it premiered at Sundance in 2004, The Best Thief in the World is a funny and affecting family drama, and Kornbluth is definitely a writer-director to watch.

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The Best Thief in the World, Jacob Kornbluth, Showtime Entertainment

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