Sunday, February 22, 2009

Review: The Reader

The Reader is one of the most depressing and plodding movies of 2008.  Spanning multiple decades between 1958 and 1995, the film is broken down into three main acts.  The first act features Kate Winslet's character (a 36-year-old German woman named Hanna Schmitz who works as a fare collector on a bus) involved in an affair with a 15-year-old boy (Michael Berg).  Throughout this act we get to see Ms. Winslet in all her glory in numerous sex scenes between her and actor David Kross (in his first major role).  Without a doubt this has to be the most nudity by an Oscar nominated actress in history.  The next act deals with a slightly older Hanna involved in a Nazi war crime trial for her involvement in a concentration camp.  Michael is at the trial as a law student and observes with conflicted emotions.  The final act follows a much older Berg (played by the always excellent Ralph Fiennes) trying to keep tabs on Schmitz while she grows old in prison.  

The name of the movie refers to the interaction between Berg and Schmitz throughout the film.  He reads to her often over the years (we find out why in the middle of the film although I noticed it early on).  I found the film to be quite boring at times and extremely slow-moving.  Director Stephen Daldry (who was at the helm for The Hours, a movie I loathe) does a decent job of recreating post WWII Germany but can't make up for the fact that the movie's two main characters are boring and lack much of a personality.  Winslet is pretty solid in the lead role (not her best effort but she'll probably win Oscar for her history of excellent acting).  She recently has come out and said that she doesn't want to do nudity in future roles.  Not surprising since she had enough in this movie to last her entire career.

I have to give this one only 2.5 JRs as I was extremely disappointed by the movie.  Even the score by unknown composer Nico Muhly is slow and lifeless.  The extra half-JR is for Winslet's jumblies which are on almost continuous display through the first third of the film.  Particularly annoying is the way the Michael Berg character aged throughout the movie.  In 1966, Berg is played by a very young looking Kross and 10 years later Fiennes is playing the role.  Those must have been the longest 10 years of Berg's life for him to age that rapidly.  Instead of seeing The Reader last night, I should have popped in the DVD of The Dark Knight, a MUCH more deserving Best Picture nominee.  I hate fat Harvey Weistein and his campaign to get The Reader nominated.  My Best Picture nomination list for 2008 would consist of (in order of preference):

The Dark Knight
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Slumdog Millionaire

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Actually, she worked on a train, not a bus. And I believe I was the one who pointed out her issue.

Well, Stephen Daldry has the distinct dishonor of creating not one, but two movies that left me feeling mildly suicidal. Ugh.