Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Reader (2008), 3/4 Stars

Note: Daldry's new Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close came out today, and Ralph Finnes has recently celebrated his birthday. This couldn't be a better time to recycle my review for The Reader. I wrote this review in November.

To say this film deserved the elusive Best Picture nomination, is incorrect. The Dark Knight was a better film in almost all respects. Alone, The Reader is a very good film. It's one of the few films I can truly describe as drama, alongside Atonement and The Pianist. The direction here by Stephen Daldry was also very good, and that anticipates me more for Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.

The story describes of a young boy, Michael. Coming home from school, he purges, but is assisted by Hanna. Diagnosed with scarlet fever, (I have "Scarlett Fever), he remains sick for three months. To thank Hanna, he brings her flowers, and catches her in the act of dressing. Hanna later asks Michael to bring him two buckets of coal. He comes home a mess, and Hanna bathes him. It ends with them, both seduced, having sex.

Together they have an affair. After reading to her, Hanna demands Michael to read first, than make love. Suddenly, Hanna leaves. Nine years later, Michael is a law student and Hanna is on trial for Nazi war crimes. And, Michael discovers a dark secret about Hanna, one that was in his face during their entire affair.

To say the acting was OK is an understatement. Winslet delivered a very sexual, unique, and powerful performance, while Finnes had a lesser, more subdued role. I'm happy Winslet won the Oscar for this, but she deserved much more for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. My main problem was with the kid, David Kross. His performance was too forced during quiet scenes, and too loud during quiet scenes. Perhaps he wasn't experienced enough. But if I were to pick a quality in the film as a coherent whole, it would be the music. The piano music is high, mighty, and adds wonderful atmosphere. I am amazed how well this film would go with Atonement, another WWII drama. It's too bad composer Nico Muhly wasn't nominated for his work on this film.

One of my main problems was the clunky time shifting. Though the beginning felt smooth with Nico Muhly's music, scenes from Kross to Finnes and back again were rugged and slurred the plot together. The film could've been much better if the time shifting narrative was more seamless or if the sequences were chronological.

All in all, I give this film a solid recommendation, but it's not without it's flaws.

3/4 Stars

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