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PCR #458 (Vol. 10, No. 1) This edition is for the week of December 29, 2008 -- January 4, 2009.

This Week's PCR
Movie Review
"The Reader"

Movie review by:
Michael A. Smith

Movies are rated 0 to 4 stars

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The Weinstein Company     
Starring: David Kross, Kate Winslet and Ralph Fiennes
Directed by: Stephen Daldry
Rated: R
Running Time: 2 hours 3 mins

What if you knew a secret that could save someone from going to prison? Would you reveal it even though that someone has decided not to. That is the moral question asked by, and to, “The Reader.”

Germany. 1958. While walking home from school young Michael Berg (Kross) becomes violently ill. He finds himself in the entranceway of a small apartment building where Hanna Schmitz (Winslet) lives. Hanna finds the boy and helps get him home. Seems the boy has scarlet fever. Months pass until he is allowed outside again. His first stop is to thank the woman who helped him. As happens in stories such as this, and despite the fact that Hanna is twice Michael’s age, the two begin a secret affair. At first their meetings are purely sexual. One day Michael reads to her from “The Odyssey.” Entranced she asks him to read to her daily. Soon he is reading to her both prior and after their lovemaking. Things are going well, especially for fifteen year old Michael. Then one day he visits the apartment to find Hanna gone.

Based on the novel by Bernhard Schlink, “The Reader” is a film that draws you in but in the end leaves you cold. And this is not the part of the filmmakers but of the author. Adapted by playwright David Hare (who also worked with director Daldry on the Oscar nominated “The Hours”), “The Reader” skips decades at a time, showing the lives of each character though not allowing them to meet until it’s too late. As the story progresses we learn that Michael has gone to law school and that he and some classmates will get to observe the trial of some accused Nazi criminals, among them his beloved Hanna. As the trial progresses Michael discovers the secret that could save Hanna from a lifetime of imprisonment. Which brings us back to my first question.

The cast is outstanding. As young Michael, Kross exhibits just the right emotions. Like many boys who experience that first love, he confuses lust for something more. Something Hanna is not ready to provide. As the adult Michael, Ralph Fiennes must struggle with a rollercoaster of emotions and he tackles them all ably. But the acting story here is Winslet. With five acting Academy Award nominations to her name by the time she was 32, it’s only a matter of time before she takes home the prize. Her work here is stunningly heartbreaking. As she wrestles with the decisions she has made in her life she makes no apologies for them. If only Mr. Schlink had given her a happier ending.

On a scale of zero to four I give “The Reader”  

This week's movie review of "The Reader" is ©2009 by Michael A. Smith.  All graphics this page are creations of Nolan B. Canova, ©2009, all rights reserved. All contents of "Nolan's Pop Culture Review" are ©2009 by Nolan B. Canova.