Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Reader

The Reader
2008. Rated R, 124 minutes.
Director: Stephen Daldry.
Starring Kate Winslet, David Kross, Ralph Fiennes, Lena Olin, Jeannette Hain.

Plot: In 1958 Germany, 15 year old Michael has an affair with 30-something Hanna which has a profound effect on both of their lives. At her request, they develop the habit of Michael reading aloud to her before sex. A few years later, they cross paths again. This time, her past comes to light causing Michael much stress.

The Good: You can't begin to discuss this movie without mentioning the performances. Kate Winslet proves she is one of the very best actresses of her era, once again turning in stellar work and earning her first Oscar (Best Actress) in the process. She deftly portrays Hanna as a woman with both a horrendous past and an embarrassing inability. To his credit, director Stephen Daldry handles both well. He reveals her past in a painful instant and hints at her inability but doesn't fully divulge it until it becomes relevant to the story. Now, back to that acting. The unsung hero of the cast is David Kross as the younger version of Michael. Watching him grow from a wide-eyed teen to a jilted lover and then a torn man is a joy. His work renders Ralph Fiennes, who plays the older Michael, little more than a placeholder. Finally, even though its unabashedly a tragic romance, it never resorts to the histrionics of melodrama. This makes the characters feel as if they're people reacting to real situations instead of performers going for their big moment.

The Bad: Two aspects of the movie that could've elevated it are left largely underdeveloped. First, there's young Michael's relationship with his family. It's introduced and peeked at, promises to add an interesting layer but is abandoned abruptly. Second, older Michael's relationship with his daughter needed to be either greatly expanded to build upon the parallellability of his with Hanna or cut out completely. As is, it just seems like a superfluous epilogue.

The Ugly: Young Michael's family dinners - talk about tense.

Recommendation: This is a very good movie but seems to have gotten its Best Picture nom on the strength of it's performances and the fact that it deals with one of the Academy's favorite subjects, the Holocaust. That said, its still a solid drama telling an intriguing story, just not one of my five faves of the year. Prudes beware, Winslet and Kross spend much of the first half of the movie naked.

The Opposite View: Julie Rigg, Movie Time - ABC National Radio

What the Internet Says: 7.7/10 on (6/8/09), 62% on, 58/100 on

MY SCORE: 7.5/10

1 comment:

  1. Hey Ott is this you? Schofield Barracks, US Army, 1989-1992?? If so holler back, it's one of your old roomies - Jason. :)