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.
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.