Monday, January 26, 2009

The Reader, or How 2008 is really Kate's year

The Reader
Directed by Stephen Daldry
Written by David Hare
Starring: Kate Winslet, David Kross, Ralph Fiennes, & Lena Olin.

When I finished watching The Reader, I was exhausted. It's an emotionally draining experience. Take that as you will. Daldry and Hare have crafted not much of an emotional roller coaster as much as a carefully executed moral minefield - peppered with enough sex (and sexual tension) to last you a lifetime. 

While it seems the film's off-screen stories (Rudin vs Weinstein, rushed post-production, allegedly knocking TDK from its BP and Best Director noms at the Oscars, being now deemed 'That Holocaust Movie'...) I think Daldry's film is a wonder of a film, albeit one that seems to be poised to divide its audience, much in the same way it does so for its characters. The film centers around a taboo romance between an older woman and a fifteen year old that, while lasting only one summer, changes both their lives forever. 

It's also a thinking person's film. Those wishing to get any emotional schmaltz out of this sex/guilt ridden story will not be rewarded. Daldry and Hare craft more questions than answers, more conundrums than emotional payoffs and the way to understand this is to explore Winslet's unflinching performance of Hannah. She doesn't go for sympathy, and her ice-cold performance is at once puzzling but altogether appropriate in that really the film is constructed around wanting to know what/why Hannah is doing but you have to give props to a film that doesn't cheat itself out for a teary sappy ending. A-


StinkyLulu said...

I think you've put your finger on what I found productive and surprising about this film. Indeed, this helps me to realize that The Reader does what Doubt purports to do, only better. Thanks.

RC said...

i'm curious what'll happen if the oscar nod and winslet-love creates a box office bump and people expecting something completly different see this film and start complaining???

Sally Belle said...

The Reader deserves it's place in the nominations.
I have seen it three times...I have the screener, and new people kept wanting to see it...but, I had no problem re-watching the film, and in fact, got more out of Winslet's performance each time.

I also really liked Kross and am surprised there hasn't been more buzz about him.