Saturday, February 7, 2009

The Reader

by Pa Rock
Film Critic

I am old enough to have seen some amazing movies on the big screen. Dr. Zhivago, The Graduate, and Cabaret leap to mind. Each of those delivered sucker punches to the gut that left me struggling to focus on the "real world" upon exiting the theater. This afternoon I saw The Reader, a darkly moving cinematic event under the direction of Stephen Daldry. The reviews let me know that I would enjoy (if that is the right word) The Reader a great deal, but I had no idea the extent to which I would be drawn into the experience and come away with concern and genuine feelings for the characters who lived out this tale.

The story focuses on a German lawyer who is looking back on his life and trying to understand the aloofness that he exhibits toward others, particularly his grown daughter. He thinks back to his first love, a strongly sexual affair that he had with a trolley-matron who was in her mid-thirties. He was an inexperienced lad of fifteen when they first met, but by the time she disappears from his life three months later he has become a seasoned lover. A central part of their love-making is her desire for him to read to her.

While it is often steamy, The Reader, is certainly no skin flick. It encompasses the horrors of the holocaust, the boundaries of love, and the relevance of ethics in a complicated world.

If you want more than that, go see the movie.

The ads, posters, and even the marquee credit Kate Winslet and Ralph Fiennes as being the stars of this movie. Perhaps, but that is with Fiennes doing so to a much lesser degree than Winslet. The film belongs to Kate Winslet: beginning, middle, and end. She is astounding in what truly is the role of a lifetime. Fiennes is good, very good, but while he necessarily plays second fiddle to Winslet, he is also seriously out-acted by newcomer David Kross who plays Finnes's character as a young man. The 18-year-old Kross and the 33-year-old Winslet drive themselves seamlessly through bouts of sexual passion, anger, despair, and renewal.

The Reader is an emotionally draining experience, but it is also very damned good!

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