Wednesday, April 10, 2024

The Reader

Written at the time of the film's release...

"Thus Conscience Doth Make Cowards of Us All"

I'm quoting Shakespeare there, so obviously this is a very "serious", and "important" film. But just to raise the hackles of any Weinstein Co. "readers" out there, here's a snarky little blanket quote to start things off:

Take The Summer of '42 and strip all the fun out of it and you have The Reader.

No, really. You've got the moony kid, but instead of 40's Nantucket, move it to early 60's Berlin. Instead of said moony kid having friends who provide the comedy relief, this kid is absolutely friendless, so there is no comedy or relief to be found, and instead of the lovely nubile widow-to-be showing him the ways of the world, you have the dour, nubile former SS-guard showing him just about every position in the book (I counted).
Still, I saw
The Reader with a nearly sold-out crowd, possibly because it's nearing the end of its run in theaters, but also because Kate Winslet is nominated for an Oscar for it (and is most likely to win).
* Stephen Daldry's previous film was The Hours, and this shares that film's chilly demeanor, and emotional opaqueness. But where The Hours resonated over several story-lines to come to a dramatically satisfying conclusion, The Reader moves along its clear-cut path, as the principles age, but seem not to mature. One would think that wisdom would creep into any of these creatures at some point, but it is not to be found. One is left to sit in frustration while actions are carried out—or more specifically, not carried out—despite some ample history lessons contained therein teaching the folly of such a philosophy. Relationships do not alter, although a lifetime of experience may be contained within the boundaries of them. And finally, the film makes a mockery of the word "responsible."
One comes away impressed by a line of dialogue every once in a while (David Hare wrote the script), the period detail seems right, the performances are "correct" (as they both play different ages of the same character, they seem to have found a perfect actor in David Kross who can match Ralph Fiennes for miserableness), but ultimately it's all for naught. This is a film without lesson, without moral, rightly or wrongly, but insists on trying to instill some shred of sympathy for a person responsible for inhuman behavior, based on their shame of a condition that they have the power to change at any time. What a waste.

* Man, you can get cynical with this, but the part has everything: the character is sympathetic/unsympathetic; has an affliction (illiterate, so no appliance-work, or physical moods to use) and a role that requires a lot of de-glamming make-up, as the character is required to age from 40 to 80. I tell ya, it's got everything to grab the gold...and then there's this YouTube video, that refers to this YouTube video.

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