The Reader

February 16, 2009 at 11:05 pm (Movies and TV)

When someone asks you how you liked a movie involving the Holocaust, it’s a sticky wicket. Do you say, I enjoyed it immensely, knowing that you’re talking about the Holocaust? Or do you say, it was disturbing? I don’t know the etiquette here, so I’ll say, I liked The Reader immensely in a disturbing sort of way.

This is a movie which can’t be reviewed in depth, as the plot unfolds through a sequence of reveals. What I can say is, it starts with a teenage boy throwing up and ends with Ralph Fiennes reading Books on Tape. Any other movie would have seen a marketing opportunity here, as most women would gladly pay to listen to Ralph Fiennes read the Scranton, PA telephone book, the back of a cereal box, or assembly instructions for any IKEA product. The man is beautiful even when he cries.

Kate Winslet will win the Best Actress Oscar this year. I can picture the phone call from her agent.  “You have to play (an EXTREMELY unsavory character I can’t explain without messing up your experience of the movie). Oh, and you have to spend most of your time in the nude.” I know the economy is bad, but I can’t think of many actresses courageous enough to have jumped at that chance. Winslet, an actress whose body of work includes Titanic and The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, has an Oscar record — incredibly — of  zero for six. That is an unfairness I expect to be corrected in a year she also gave a breathtaking performance in Revolutionary Road.

David Kross, the German highschooler who plays the young Ralph Fiennes character, has astonishing bravery and range for someone his age…reminiscent of Dev Patel in Slumdog Millionaire. How wonderful this year to see such greatness from young actors and actresses.

My daughter is currently studying the Holocaust at school, but I was not able to take her to see the movie because it is inappropriate for young viewers. It is what I describe as a “talking movie” which depends more on what is said and shown in an understated way than on the amount of action and adventure. I apologize for the vagueness of the review. Let’s just say it is a very well-done and emotionally engaging film, and worth seeing.

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