Sunday, March 8, 2009
Day Forty: The Reader (2008) - Rank 4.5/5
Hands down, this was easily the best picture of the year, superior even to "Slumdog Millionaire." Of course, many awards committees disagree, whether it be a simple difference of opinion or simply because they became consumed in the "Slumdog Millionaire" hype that has prevailed since January. That being said, I will try not to mention any pivotal plot points, for I went into this film with no knowledge as to what it was about and was genuinely surprised. I think had i been familiar with the premise by just a little bit, it would have diminished the impact of the film.
"The Reader" is a tense and engaging period drama and character study that's shot with a conventional and "sensible" approach (producing a film style not seen since the late nineties - hailing to the zenith of Merchant-Ivory). The central focus is the ongoing relationship between a young German (David Kross - played by Ralph Fiennes as an adult) and a woman nearly twice his age (his first, childhood love), who happens to show him an inordinate amount of kindness (kindness would be a good euphemism for 'sex' in this situation) in exchange for his reading to her. While Meryl Streep had been my pick for Best Actress, I think Kate Winslet's performance in this film is certainly worthy of teh accolades she receives. The tender romance suddenly ends and secrets about the characters come out, causing them to hold on to information that hasn't been revealed with greater determination
Stephen Daldry has to be one of the strongest working directors in Hollywood today, for all three of his films have not only been modern masterpieces, but he's also received the recognition of Oscar nominations for each. The heart of the film focuses on secrecy, often begging the question: "Are we define by what we keep secret or do our secrets restrict our potential as human beings?" There are no easy answers here and the film certainly lends itself to great post-viewing discussion. Superbly acted, well-written and brilliantly directed, I think the impact of this film will prevail long after the hype surrounding "Slumdog Millionaire" has faded.
Watch the Trailer