The Reader Review

February 1, 2009

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Reviewed By: Average Joe

Synopsis: The movie takes place in post WWII Germany. A teenager has an affair with an older woman. Approximately 10 years after the affair mysteriously ended, the boy, now a law student, re-encounters the woman as she stands trial for a war crime offense.

Review: Let me start by saying that The Reader was a good film and that Kate Winslett (in spite of my disdain for her) was great, as was 18-year old David Kross.

[Note: I don’t like Winslett because from what I hear she was a real bitch to all the locals, cast, and crew while working on The Life of David Gale in my hometown. Apparently Russell Crowe is notoriously hard to work with as well. I still like him. End tirade.]

The movie dragged a bit at first, but Winslett and Kross immediately brought their characters to life. Winslett played the older woman, Hanna Schmitz, and Kross really impressed me playing the younger version of Michael Berg, the boy who has the affair with Schmitz.

I thought their chemistry was solid and even more authentic because of the fact that it was awkward at times, the way I envision affairs with older women to be (I wouldn’t know). The Reader is accurately named because the young Michael Berg often reads to Hanna, and it comes back into play later near the end of the film.

The film contains graphic nudity (I wonder if Kross was scared to be naked with Winslett?), and some intense post WWII issues, but that isn’t what makes this film (thought it may be what got it nominated for an Oscar). It is the films ability to manipulate you into becoming enraptured by the affair, and then surprised by Hanna’s secret when she stands trial. It makes you question the way you feel, and I love films that have the ability to do this.

Where this film fell short for me was primarily the core of the elder Michael. Why is he still so haunted by Hanna when he was only 15 at the time of their encounter? Why was Ralph Fiennes relatively mediocre in his portrayal of the character? I would’ve liked to know more motive and rationale behind the Michael character (and maybe Winslett’s amazing performance just overshadowed those issues.) And as I mentioned, the pace was a bit pedestrian at times. I’m an Average Joe, it’s tough to hold my attention.

Rating: 7.8

Recommendation: I do not think this movie deserved a nomination for the best movie of the year, but it’s a good film. Don’t get caught up in the WWII surroundings and think it is better than it is, but watch it for Winslett’s performance, and appreciate both Kross’s surprising performance and the film’s ability to manipulate your emotions.

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The Lookout Review II

December 31, 2008

Also Reviewed By: Mr. Film Snob

Review: I have been reviewing some very recent releases of late, but I wanted to take a second to shine a light on this underrated gem from late 2007/early 2008.

The film has some very familiar noir elements, but I didn’t know what that meant until today, so I’d rather focus on the fact that this was an excellent cast film that will surprise most audiences.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt has been very smart about the roles he has chosen since his sting on 30 Rock and he delivers here as Chris Pratt. It would have been easy to over-act the character, but he remained subtle and nuanced, and I enjoyed throughout.

Just because he has memory issues, don’t try to compare this to Memento. Levitt isn’t really a man on a single mission, rather a troubled, flawed character just trying to return his life to some level of normalcy.

Jeff Bridges, Isla Fischer and Matthew Goode are all very solid in their respective roles, and therein lies the strength of this film. I really enjoy stories that are character-driven as opposed to plot driven, and this is one of those stories.

There are a couple of holes in the plot; the most notable one for me is the way Fischer’s character, Luvlee, is just phased out without the viewer knowing what happens.

As the Film Snob mentioned, the opening scene is beautifully shot, the ending is relatively clever (even if it’s a bit too clean), and I will add that I really thought the Thanksgiving dinner scene at Chris’ parents house was excellent.

Rating: 7.9

Recommendation: Rent this movie and appreciate some great performances from this solid cast. Enjoy the ride, and keep an eye on Levitt (his career path and ability to pick movies might lead him down a Ryan Gosling path, though I’m not sure he’s as strong as Gosling).