The Reader

January 14, 2009 at 9:00 pm | Posted in movies | 1 Comment

ROHL: Societies like to think they operate by something called morality. But they don’t. They operate by something called law… Remember, the question is never ‘Was it wrong?’ but ‘Was it legal?’ And not by our laws, no, by the laws at the time.
DIETER: (frowns, unhappy): But isn’t that… narrow?
ROHL: Yes. The law is narrow.

thereader

The Reader
AMC Stony Brook – January 14

Semi-spontaneously, I went to see The Reader today as a matinee with my Mom – which is exactly how it should be seen. Despite the matinee senior citizen crowd, this is a gentle film with hard subject matter.

As far as the plot is concerned, it focuses mainly on one gentleman (Ray Fiennes) Micheal Berg’s memory of an boyhood affair (younger self admirably played by David Kross) with an older woman (Kate Winslet) in Berlin just prior to WWII. After a whirlwind summer romance comes to an end, they go their separate ways only to meet again under terrible and gut-wrenching circumstances. The timeline is very shifty, even with dates in subtitles. Their relationship, however, remains strong through to the conclusion. Based on a book written by Bernhard Schlink, this is an intense but wonderfully told story of secrets, love and morality.

Seems that Hollywood has opened the book on Nazi Germany recently with such films as Valkyrie and references in The Unborn (according to Lyons & Bailes). Admittedly, I have not personally sought out much material on this subject since taking part in a Holocaust play called I Never Saw Another Butterfly about children of Auschwitz, as well as The Diary of Anne Frank in high school. As a tall, blond-haired blue-eyed girl, the only role I could play was Mies, the German woman who hid the family from the Nazis. From that experience, I learned a great deal about the struggle not only of the Jewish people, but of the Germans who did everything they could to help.

The performances were outstanding in this film, across the board. As I stated earlier, I particularly enjoyed the performance of David Kross who played Young Michael. He held his own against the tour-de-force that is Kate Winslet. katereaderSurprisingly, Nicole Kidman was originally slated for the role but had to drop out due to an unscheduled but much welcomed pregnancy, according to many internet sources. However, the studio’s first choice was originally Kate Winslet ironically, who at the time had turned it down because of conflicts with Revolutionary Road. Kind of hard to pass up the opportunity to work not only with heartthrob Leo Dicaprio again (lol yeah, I said it), but also with her husband and director Sam Mendes of American Beauty fame. And it’s a good thing she did! Worked out for everyone in the end… From this performance, it is clear why she won the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress. (Congrats on both wins, Kate!) I don’t know if any actress has ever won in both categories before, but either way it still an amazing accomplishment! Lena Olin has a small but fierce part – to call it a cameo just would not do it justice. Well done! Also, it was nice to see Ray Fiennes in another role before the next 3 Harry Potter films commence.

Beautiful storytelling aside, I have to say that the affair was handled quite tastefully. Everyone seems to be making a fuss about the nudity… even though Kate Winslet has shed her clothes in a now infamous scene in one of the highest grossing films of all-time. Even Oprah was praising Winslet for having natural breasts. Though the sex scenes are a little hot and heavy for a casual movie outing, I guess so is a movie about the Holocaust. (aka choose your company wisely and it can be a great time!)

RATING: 4stars
Recommendation: See with a friend, lover or if you are comfortable enough, a parent with surrounding octogenarians.

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  1. I’m glad I know someone else who saw this movie. I’m a huge fan of both Kate Winslet and Ralph Fiennes, and saw the film one that basis alone. I had no clue what it was about before I went to see it.

    I have to say that Kate Winslet is one of Hollywood’s best. She gave such an intense performance, that it broke my heart. I’m man enough to admit, I did cry a little at the end. Fiennes is great as always, in a strong supporting role. David Kross, who I hadn’t seen before, amazed me. I agree that he really held his own with a powerhouse actress like Kate. I look forward to seeing his next film.

    As for the controversial nudity. Kate has been nude in about 90 percent of the films she’s made. She’s a gorgeous women, who has the talent and charisma to back up the looks. The love scenes were handled very tastefully, and yet, carried a smoldering eroticism. In other words, the love scenes were sensual, rather than overtly sexual. This, I feel is more effective than a straight up “sex” scene.

    This is a powerful character study of two people going in different directions in life. It’s a fable about first love, and love lost.

    I agree with your rating ****.

    Oh, and I would like to add that I saw it at Embarcadero one on opening night. No octogenarians, or mothers, present–just a bunch of yuppies.


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