Directed by Stephen Daldry.
Written by David Hare. Based on the novel by Bernhard
Starring David Kross, Kate Winslet, Ralph Fiennes and Lena Olin.
Release Year: 2008
Review Date: 12/27/08
That Kate Winslet is a likable actress; she
almost always picks quality products and she really loves walking
In "The Reader", she's naked so much that I
just felt weird when she had clothes on. Taking the European
filmmaking approach, the film is able to tell a story that is both
very dramatic, very sensual and occasionally amusing all while
having its leads spend the majority of the first third of the film
stark-ass naked. And, I liked it a lot!
We start in 1995, where an older gent named
Michael Berg (Ralph Fiennes) is finishing up with a lovely woman and
essentially telling her that she'll really never get to know him.
Flashback, then, to 1958, where 15-year-old Michael (played young by
David Kross) meets a 35-year-old trolley attendant named Hanna (Winslet)
and decides that Michael is the kind of boy she'd like to get to
know better...in THAT way. She also really enjoys that Michael
loves to read, so in-between their lovemaking, Michael reads the
classics to Hanna at her bedside. Their affair lasts a summer,
until Hanna is promoted out of her trolley job and she moves away
from her apartment in Berlin, leaving Michael without his first true
Eight years later, while attending law
school, Michael and some classmates attend open trials of accused
prison guards at Auschwitz for their roles in the mass murder of
more than 300 Jews at a prison fire. Wait, is that Hanna on
the defendant side as one of six accused guards?? It is, and
for the rest of the film, we learn a little more about Hanna's time
before we met her in '58, with plenty of flash forwards to adult
Michael's handling of his affair with Hanna.
The film is deep, but it has a pile of great
small moments thanks to the young Michael/Hanna relationship, the
Auschwitz trials, Michael's conscience in the concealment of
evidence late in the film, and even great moments late with adult
Michael's daughter (Hannah Herzsprung) and a surviving victim of the
camps (played in two roles by Lena Olin). I haven't read any
reviews yet by "real" critics, but if I had to guess, many of them
would call this movie a plethora, or maybe a movie chock-full of,
"movie moments", and Winslet is so good that she makes all of her
scenes fabulous. Fiennes was actually a minor disappointment
here, which means that he was good, but not as bad-ass as he
normally is. I was surprised that Kross was so good as young
Michael; all I could think for the first half of the film was, "How
does a kid keep his cool while doing a dozen nude scenes with Kate
Winslet?" Seriously, you'll do this, too!
The soundtrack is great, the photography is
great, and the ending is great. The movie has an epic feel to
it thanks to the time-trotting and globetrotting...so, at two hours,
it has a longer feel to it, but the filmmakers do a good job of
mixing things up just enough to not make it feel like it's dragging
(and, trust me, I saw this during my normal nap time, so I would
know if it was draggin'!). Director Stephen Daldry also did
"The Hours" and
so his street cred helps solidify an already strong piece of work.
This one'll be a player during Oscar season!
Rating: Opening Weekend
Comments? Drop me a line at
Bellview Rating System:
"Opening Weekend": This is
the highest rating a movie can receive. Reserved for movies that
exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development,
setting...or Salma Hayek. Not necessarily in that order.
"$X.XX Show": This price
changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently,
it is the $9.50 Show. While not technically perfect, this is a
movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.
"Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca",
but you'll have a great time watching. The $9.50 Show won't win any
Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see
"Matinee": An average movie
that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.
Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about
yourself. A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave
the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that
Lakers game last night?"
"Rental": This rating
indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your
friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one." Mostly forgettable, you
couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to
watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the
video store was out of copies of "Ronin." If you can, see this
movie for free. This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a
"Hard Vice": This rating is
the bottom of the barrel. A movie that only six other human beings
have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen. A Shannon
Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every
one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a
movie. Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or
"Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this
movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!
(Warning: strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard