Monday, March 23, 2009

Vacation Catch-up: The Reader

I saw quite a few movies on my vacation so I'm going to write up reviews of all of them, though most cinephiles will have already seen them. What I'd love is to hear what other people also thought of them, or how you agree or disagree with me because even if I read a review on a fellow blogger's site, or a general review, it would have been months ago when these movies opened, so I'm not sure anymore what people thought. First up, The Reader. I actually read the book just before seeing the movie (I don't usually care about having read the book when I see the movie but I remembered it was around and not too long). Both are fantastic. Possibly because I liked the book so much, it colored how I thought about the movie, but I just think the story is fantastic. The acting was good, and the methods the screenwriter and director used to bring a remembered account to life was fantastic. Kate Winslet was terrific, playing Hanna Schmitz, a 30 something trolley car ticket taker who helps our 15-year old hero, Michael Berg, get home when he gets sick right in her doorway. When he returns to say thank you, he sees her putting on her stockings and a sexual relationship evolves. He completely falls for her over the course of a summer. They take a biking trip together, sleep together, bathe together and he reads to her. He reads his school assignments and then things that interest her. You wonder why she wants to be read to so much, but she just seems to enjoy it so much. Hanna leaves without warning one day and Michael is heartbroken and never really recovers. He later attends law school and a seminar that examines a trial going on of female guards from some of the Nazi concentration camps. Surprisingly, to Michael, Hanna is one of the guards on trial now. The rest of the movie follows her trial and sentencing. It's difficult to watch and hearing Winslet deliver the pivotal speech about "what would you have done?" to the judges is just heartrending. Ralph Fiennes plays Michael as an adult and is wonderful struggling with his boyhood love, which he never got over, appearing later as a criminal he has been taught to think of as pure evil. It's a terrific movie and an Oscar worthy performance by Winslet and excellent performances by Fiennes, and David Kross, the younger Michael.

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