The Reader (2008)

Content by Tony Macklin. Originally published on January 27, 2009 @ tonymacklin.net.

The Reader is the most undeserving of the five Academy Award nominees for Best Picture.

A nice quality for a movie to have is if it has one or more characters to whom one can relate. In The Reader the two main characters are clods.

One is a callow youth, and the other is a one-dimensional, yearning woman. She's yearning but cold. Neither has a whit of wit. If you can relate to them, less power to you.

Set in post-World War II Germany, The Reader is the tepid tale of a young man Michael Berg (David Kross) who meets an illiterate, older woman Hanna Schmitz (Kate Winslet). They have an affair, and he reads to her.

I've made the plot sound more interesting than it is.

When the big, big "surprise" is introduced in The Reader, it's a "c'mon" moment. And it's poorly executed. Contrivance contrived.

As director Danny Boyle did in Slumdog Millionaire, director Daltry amps up the style in The Reader. Daltry uses strings galore. He has excited, ceaseless music to try to enhance dull characters. You can bounce music off stones -- but they're still stones.

Screenwriter David Hare, who collaborated more successfully with Stephen Daldry on The Hours (2002), adapts Bernhard Schlink's book to little avail. Daldry also previously directed Billy Elliott (2002), which had vibrant life, which his present film sorely lacks. The Reader is like pages stuck together.

And then there's the cast. Ralph Fiennes plays the adult Michael, as though he's an English actor trying to make sense out of a German dictionary. He looks blankly a lot.

High schooler David Kross performs in his first major role as the stolid reader. Stay in high school, David. Hit the High school theatre circuit. Kross and Fiennes don't look at all alike even though they are supposed to be the same character.

And then there's the divine Kate.

Kate Winslet keeps winning awards -- the Golden Globe, the SAG. What's she got on these institutions?

Michael reads to Hanna in bed, in the tub.

I wouldn't take a bath with Kate Winslet, even if it were an aromatic bubble bath, or even one in vodka.

Anyway I couldn't; the tub would be full of her sycophants. When the ad for The Reader trumpets Rex Reed's adulation, you assume the movie is fatuous. And you know it won't work out heterosexually. Reed has never liked a movie that does. He adores relationships that fall apart.

Kate Winslet is the Sarah Palin of actresses. A lot of posturing. Palin is another one I wouldn't take a bath with, although she could provide the ice cubes for the vodka.

I assume Leonardo DiCaprio wasn't available for The Reader. But Kross has even less range than DiCaprio, so Kate was happy. Kross -- like Leonardo -- in comparison makes it seem as though she has range.

Can someone please tell me the appeal of Kate Winslet? She was outacted by a ship, for god's sake.

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