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4 reviews, 26 user ratings

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Reader, The
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by Rob Gonsalves

"Another feather in Kate's acting cap, but that's about it."
3 stars

It’s probably worth sitting through "The Reader" just for the late scene between Lena Olin, as an Auschwitz survivor, and Ralph Fiennes, who knows someone who was at Auschwitz in a different capacity.

At 53, Olin has lost none of her sensuality and none of her wild-card scariness; I almost felt sorry for poor Ralph Fiennes (no slouch himself, let’s remember), who sits and listens and somehow seems very small as she intones, “Nothing came out of the camps. Nothing.” She means, of course, nothing redeeming, nothing that would make sense of it. In just a few minutes, Olin sketches a woman who went through hell as a girl and has no patience for anything that would trivialize her suffering. Give this woman an Oscar.

Not that I begrudge Kate Winslet her own award. As Hanna Schmitz, a surly tram ticket-taker who has an affair with 15-year-old Michael Berg (David Kross), Winslet speaks and moves like someone carrying a terrible weight in her gut. In time, we discover that Hanna was a guard at Auschwitz, and is culpable for the deaths of hundreds of Jews in a church fire. This, however, is not entirely the source of her shame. Without any obvious Oscar moments — Hanna’s pride wouldn’t allow them — Winslet creates a flawed and fascinating villain, an ordinary woman who let herself drift into evil in order to hide something.

The Reader isn’t really about her, though. It’s mainly about Michael (played by Fiennes in adulthood), who finds himself haunted by this haunted woman. The problem is that Michael is fairly colorless — regardless of his age, he remains, on some level, a lovestruck boy fixated on the first woman who took him to bed. Somewhere outside the movie’s purview, Michael becomes a lawyer, marries, has a daughter, divorces, and somehow morphs from the recessive, hangdog David Kross to the rather more intense and angular Ralph Fiennes (to whom elegant romantic yearning comes a little too easily by now). Meanwhile, Hanna kinda sorta ages, until near the end, when she’s supposed to be in her late sixties, she looks like a mostly-unlined Kate Winslet with a scraggly gray dye job. The computer-generated aging miracles of Benjamin Button were not available to this production or its budget, I guess.

Under Stephen Daldry’s nondescript direction, the movie is a passive and too-tasteful meditation on guilt and its lasting, deformative power. Hanna could’ve saved those Jews but didn’t; Michael could’ve saved Hanna from a harsher prison sentence but didn’t. At the movie’s center is the big revelation — why Hanna found herself working at Auschwitz, why she wasn’t guilty to the extent that she was accused of, why she’d rather spend her life in jail than confess. It seems a tad overblown, especially in light of her actions; it’s also a little too neat a metaphor.

Still, Winslet and Olin — and the always-welcome Bruno Ganz as Michael’s law professor — kick "The Reader" into higher gear. One of the year’s five best films, however, it is not.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=17060&reviewer=416
originally posted: 02/28/09 21:27:46
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User Comments

12/28/11 dan Started watching en route, didn´t know Winslet was Winslet, so excellent performance. 4 stars
4/13/11 Evie I don't understand why he didn't tell her he would set her up in an apt.& take care of her. 4 stars
4/13/10 daveyt I can see why some might not rate it, I do however, so there! 4 stars
3/30/10 IndyFan You're missing it. 5 stars
3/03/10 jackie i still can't get over not just admitting she can't read instead of life in prison. 4 stars
9/22/09 A Burke Statutory rape! Why the suicide? Oscar bait 2 stars
9/11/09 BTC Newcomer Kross shows remarkable range, and Winslet re-proves that she's the next Streep. 4 stars
7/29/09 MP Bartley Powerhouse performance from Winslet barely elevates it above movie of the week stuff. 3 stars
7/08/09 jason Winslet teaching Kross how to make love is awesome 5 stars
6/27/09 gandalf terrible slow ass film, another holocaust oscar bait film 1 stars
6/21/09 jana I didnt care for it all the things critics have said it was to evoke i saw none of it 2 stars
6/11/09 tung ton winslet deserved oscar; first nazi child molester pic with heart 5 stars
5/16/09 Danny Nice performance from Winslet. Movie just a tiny notch above average. 3 stars
5/13/09 Colin M I thought Winslet's performance would be better than the actual movie but both were amazing 5 stars
4/21/09 malcolm moving and maddening at the same time 5 stars
4/03/09 Meep A lesser film than it wants to be 3 stars
3/17/09 jim kate's always great to watch; decent melodrama 4 stars
2/20/09 R.W. Welch Neatly plotted, tho old Mike and young Mike don't look at all alike. 4 stars
2/16/09 Smitty A quite original love story displaying human frailty at it's worst. 5 stars
2/02/09 Piz unecessarily gratuitous at times but touching and well-developing. 4 stars
1/28/09 Sean Stangland She'd rather take the heat for 300 murders than admit she can't read?!? What a strange film 2 stars
1/14/09 FrankNFurter Touching and surprisingly poignant film.Probably the best in a long time! 5 stars
1/03/09 henry Lunde very moving and heartrending I loved it 5 stars
12/26/08 Tom David Kross gave an honest & remarkable performance. 5 stars
12/14/08 Doreen liked it alot 4 stars
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  10-Dec-2008 (R)
  DVD: 07-Apr-2009


  DVD: 07-Apr-2009

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