The Reader

Rating – ***


Throughout most of The Reader, Kate Winslet’s cameo role in Extras was at the forefront of my mind. Ironically her infamous “How to win an Oscar” speech would appear to be the blue-print for the makers of this film. Nazis? Nudity? Disability? Unflattering makeup on a beautiful actress? It keeps ticking all the right boxes until the deafening roar of “Just give me an Oscar!” almost drowns out what is actually a pretty decent drama. The first act, set in post war Germany, is the strongest. Stephen Daldry’s direction is subtle yet effective, making this a visually distinctive film which doesn’t resort to gimmicks or cliché’s. Note that I’m talking about the photography, the same can’t be said about the plot or the frequent nudity. You’d assume Kate Winslet’s boobies would always be a welcome screen presence. Initially this is true. Yet after a while, her nipples began triggering unintentional laughter from the audience. It started to feel like a spoof. I got the same feeling towards the end of the film when we are reintroduced to her character years later. The aging makeup is overdone, it looks like they just stuck a grey wig on her head, chucked talcum powder at her, and began filming. Somebody should have sacked the makeup artist after day one! This compromises an otherwise strong performance. The lack of believability in the aging process is also crippling for another character. Although Ralph Fiennes and David Kross are both excellent individually (especially Kross), it’s almost impossible to accept them as the same character with only a couple of decades separating them. This may sound like nitpicking but I felt it really hurt the films credibility. Add to that an underwhelming and drawn out conclusion which squanders an initially fascinating twist.

Is The Reader a bad film? Not at all, I liked most of it. But it’s certainly not a worthy Best Picture nominee. With only five places up for grabs in the major categories, surely they could have found room to recognise Christopher Nolan’s exhilarating and vastly superior direction in The Dark Knight? As is so often the case, the Academy has backed a film which will be quickly forgotten after a few years. Remember when Shakespeare in Love beat Saving Private Ryan in the Best Picture category? The Reader is one of those films.

~ by thewholebuffalo on July 19, 2009.

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