The Reader - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Reader Reviews

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Super Reviewer
½ April 4, 2010
"The Reader" is a response to post-Nazi Germany, and the ways in which people reconcile the past with their present. Even more disturbing is how the film, and the novel from which this is adapted, present the idea that the Nazis were people, with the same needs and morals as present day Germans. This idea is presented through the relationship between a teenager (Kross, Fiennes) and a train conductor (Winslet). The film doesn't argue that these inhuman actions are palatable once we understand the motivations of those who committed them, only that they really were people, not exactly misled in their decision making, but part of a movement that didn't have room for choice. I have read some critic's opinions that state that the film tries to purport that illiteracy, or even ignorance, is an excuse for evil. You can argue this point when looking at our lead character's struggle with this issue, but it's as easily assertible that this serves as a plot device to explain Michael Berg's guilt over the situation. This is not a love story, it's a story about compassion and how we look at the perpetrators of history. It's not only an interesting thought experiment, but a heartbreaking indictment of the callousness of humanity, and how we handle atrocities as a society.
Super Reviewer
½ February 7, 2009
when one gets past the opportunist and pointless 30 minute long soft core porn sequence at the start of the film, the story picks up greatly and becomes slightly engaging. the problem was that this sort of film has a chance to truly inspire and only being slightly engaging isnt really good enough. its a good film without doubt, with solid acting and an interesting story line, but this film faces harsher judgement because of its acclaim and it doesnt hold up. easily the least deserving oscar nom of 2008, it is also not winslets best performance of this year as she was more involved in revolutionary road. she was still very good as she always is, but despite the fact that i really enjoyed this film i was disappointed following its press.
Super Reviewer
½ November 20, 2008
A teenage boy has an illicit affair with an older woman in post war Berlin and years later finds her on trial as an Auschwitz prison guard. The Reader is a very worthy examination of German post war guilt and the resulting gulf between the following generations which no doubt resulted in the creation of the Baader-Meinhof gang. The most interesting part of the film is actually the moral debate between the law students and their tutor and it does make some interesting points about the consequences of culpability through inaction, but the structure of the film as seen through the eyes of an infatuated young boy and his older, wiser self doesn't really work. It has that kind of sterile tastefulness that "Oscar nominated" films always have and it completely lacked any emotional involvement with the characters. The performances are all strong, but I couldn't help the feeling that nearly every member of the cast were either too young or too old for their parts and it did not help that David Kross bears absolutely no resemblance to Ralph Fiennes whatsoever, which combines with a rather implausible plot development on which the entire story hinges to make the whole thing rather unconvincing. Kudos to Kate Winslet for her measured and thoughtful performance, but otherwise The Reader left me rather cold.
Super Reviewer
December 30, 2008
Bernhard Schlink's erotic and economical novel comes to life on the screen, and overall, it's well done. The book is so compactly written, I had to ask myself, how can they get two hours of film out of it? The short answer: music. Leaving aside Kate Winslet's (deserving) Oscar-winning performance for a second, the score of the film carried it through the gaps in time and the silences between the characters keeping secrets from each other. I thought the casting for Michael was a bit off - too old for the young lead, too young to be a college student later - and it was a bit off-putting that the climax came earlier in the film (about halfway) than in the book (three-quarters). But in the end, this isn't about comparing the book to the movie. The film stands well on its own, and though it will seem a little slow to those who have not read the book, the score and the acting will leave you much more happy than not.
Super Reviewer
January 2, 2009
A fine example of great actors, Winslet won an Oscar for this film telling a sad love story. The film has two different halves. The first with an impressive performance by David Kross as a teenage boy who begins an affair one summer with a much older woman. The couple appear naked for much of the first half of the film as the couple spend their time either reading or making love. The second half of the film is set a good few years later as their paths cross again at a war crimes trial. For me quite a few things in the film don't have much of a back story or make a lot of sense. For me the end of the film didn't have a satisfying conclusion and leaves a lot of questions unanswered. A sad story of two lonely lives and the impact they had on each other.
Super Reviewer
February 27, 2011
It was so good and weird it was hard not to stop watching
Super Reviewer
½ October 27, 2010
This movie has a lot of emotion behind it. It's not necessarily a happy movie, but it is moving and the storyline is very interesting. Kate Winslet, as always, is magnificent.
Super Reviewer
October 21, 2010
I thought The Reader was a very twisted film. If you know the plot of the film, you'll know why I say it's twisted. I'm not saying the film bad, it's excellent and terrific. The story is very interesting and the cast is great, but the plot is messed up.What I mean is that the film is not confusing, but the plot is wow. a Young man one summer has an affair with a woman, who years later encounters in court hearing where she is being judged for being part of the SS during the Second World War. I thought that was messed up, but very interesting thing at the same. I don't view The Reader as a chick flick, because it dwells on a dark subject, and it's too dark to be just another story. Really, the affair in the film was strong for one summer, thats it. The thing I loved about The Reader was that it took a completely different direction than any other "love story" at first I thought it was going to be justa typical cliched love story. Boy was I wrong. This film combines elements of love story, but it doesn't long, it's more a fling than anything. The second half of the film is a well structured, courtroom thriller with drama and suspense. The Reader is a terrific film with a solid story, a great cast of actors and great directing. I always enjoy Ralph Fiennes and Kate Winslet gives the performance of her career. She's come a long way since her days of Titanic, she's truly matured as an actress. The Reader is a refreshing drama and it will surprise the skeptics that think its just another love story. The film is strongly acted and despite it being slow, the story is so intriguing that you don't care that the film sort of drags on a bit. Also some reviews have pointed out that the film they tried to make the film to make Hanna Schmitz look sympathetic and the victim. I felt nothing for that character, no sympathy or empathy. I didn't think the film was about making Schmitz the victim, I though it more about showing her as a criminal, and thats what the film is about. People who think that Schmitz is the victim don't get the point of the film, I though Ralph Fiennes character was the victim because Schmitz played him like a fool, and lied to him throughout the film. The films takes an unbiased point of view on both main characters which I think is important.
Super Reviewer
½ September 20, 2010
The only thing I hate about this movie -- and I mean HATE -- is seeing Kate Winslet play the heavy. It makes me ill in all kinds of ways, but it's also a tribute to her acting ability. Fortunately, I didn't realize how bad it was going to be until I, just as David Kross does, discovered what Winslet had done until it unfolds in the courtroom. But then, of course, this discovery colors, in retrospect, the whole movie from the beginning, and while the discovery doesn't destroy my life as it pretty much does the life of Kross-Fiennes, it certainly makes me very uncomfortable and, yes, guilty, for feeling so sorry for her as the illiterate and somehow damaged woman I was viewing her as up to the trial. This movie, for me, was extremely unpredictable, and it really does make me ill to think of Winslet playing a participant in the perpetration, the execution of the Holocaust. And lest I -- or anyone else seeing this story -- begin to feel sorry for yet another person who was just doing her/his job -- it's good to hear Lena Olin lay it out for Fiennes in such an unapologetic and matter-of-fact way at the end. To quote Olin: "People ask all the time what I learned in the camps. But the camps weren't therapy. What do you think these places were? Universities? We didn't go there to learn. One becomes very clear about these things. What are you asking for? Forgiveness for her? Or do you just want to feel better yourself? My advice, go to the theater, if you want catharsis. Please. Go to literature. Don't go to the camps. Nothing comes out of the camps. Nothing." That about sums it up for us and for the man who cannot really ever come to grips with the idea that the love of his life was an enabling participant -- albeit only seeing herself as doing her job - -in carrying out one of the greatest evils perpetrated in the history of humankind. Yes, doing her job: "We were responsible for them!" Another shocking moment. Winslet means responsible in the sense of "if we let them out of the church, they might have run away" versus the kind of responsibility which most of us, I hope, would assume in throwing open the doors so these women and children could escape being burned to death. That horrible realization of Winslet being yet one more of these I-was-only-doing-my-job types, I'll assume Fiennes will never be able to recover from, and neither will anyone who sees this movie if you felt something along the lines of pity for the Winslet character up until the trial. Her final get-together with Fiennes is brilliantly startling as well. Compare that conversation about learning with the Olin one. Fiennes asks Winslet if she's learned anything during her twenty years in prison: "Sure, Kid, I learned how to read." Absolutely chilling. It's like another dagger in Fiennes' and the audience's heart. Harking back to my youth, I seem to recall that one aspect of catharsis, in the ancient sense, would involve witnessing actors playing at a tragic event which, at minimum, would allow the audience to be better able to deal with their own life struggles, knowing that their problems at least were nowhere near as horrific as those they'd seen portrayed on stage -- such as someone killing his father and then marrying his mother. To that extent, I think this movie may provide catharsis for some. It would be horrible, I think, to be in Fiennes shoes, and we can all thank whatever powers that be that we're not in a similar situation -- Except what's odd is that I, an audience member, so associate myself with Fiennes because I am drawn to the Winslet character as well -- before I, like Fiennes, find out Winslet's true story -- that if anything, I am also ensnared in the same tragic trap which I cannot escape either. There can be no purging for me. No catharsis. And that must be due to brilliant directorial and authorial manipulation of the audience. Not to mention that Kate Winslet is one astonishing actor who is able to suck me in like that.
Super Reviewer
September 20, 2010
This was a really good movie. Slow moving sometimes, but it definitely kept me enthralled. I have always loved a really good drama, and this one didn't disappoint me. I am REALLY amazed that Ralph Fiennes wasn't nominated for any awards, just Kate Winslet it seems. He did just as fine a job.
Super Reviewer
½ April 2, 2010
Life is a messy thing indeed. Motivations, ambiguous morality, atonement, and redemption all smack into one another like so many atom particles; careening off one another in ways both unique and sublime.

That is at the core of The Reader, which shows that every action has a reaction - altering lives in ways unimagined and heartbreaking, and yet, due to a tagged ending (which I initially thought unnecessary until further reflection) hope, reconcilliation and redemption of a fashion, still remain; showing that somehow, hope is the divining rod of the human condition.

Driving all the subsequent action is Kate Winslet in a rather daring performance as a lonely 30 year old woman who holds many a secret. In a subdued, yet powerful performance that is light years away from the mess that was Revolutionary Road, she manages to convey a rather tight lipped fatalism, keeping her secrets close to her vest and hiding behind a stern, seemingly harsh shell.

It's often the little things that are telling, and for me this film and its direction worked wonders, revealing its secrets slowly, giving time to see the deeper subject behind what is shown on the screen.

When the 15 year old boy returns to Winslet's apartment to allegedly thank her for befriending him, Winslet plays him like a violin, letting him glimpse her upper thigh. When she catches him oggling, she is so matter of fact in her observation "so this is why you came here".

That they then become lovers seems so natural, even though it goes against certain moral codes (harkening back to The Summer of 42 for me) - which becomes the theme of a law school sermon - there is law and there is morality, and all too often morality tries to dictate law, which should never be allowed to happen.

What then transpires, showing how lives are ruined by the choices they make, whether they feel that they actually had a choice at all, is what the film, and life are all about.

I'm not going to reveal any of the secrets, for you should let it all unfold for yourself, but will say that the concept of absolution is examined both overtly, in the case of a holocaust surviver refusing to acknowledge a German's gift for fear that she would be granting said absolution, to a much more covert notion of a country branding guilt on a select few in order to absolve its national conscience.

I found the direction compelling in the way it appeared to seamlessly move between decades, and though the minor subplot of Ralph Fiennes and his daughter at first seemed a distraction, it all comes home to roost as the film uses his relationship with his daughter to exemplify how Fiennes too has been ruined by all that proceeded. That he ultimately chooses to embrace his failings and embrace the goodness around him (his daughter) leaves us with hope - hope that perhaps we as a species can somehow embrace humanity and learn from the mistakes of the past.
Super Reviewer
½ January 14, 2009
When dealing with matters of the Holocaust, most films seek either retribution or absolution. The Reader offers neither. This is a film of attributes as well as detriments. A film devoid of holy lights and evil darkness. A character study in shades of gray.

Highly recommended.
Super Reviewer
½ April 30, 2009
Kate Winslet, David Kross, Ralph Fiennes, Lena Olin, Karoline Herfurth, Moritz Grove, Burghart Klaussner, Ludwig Blochberger, Bruno Ganz

DIRECTED BY: Stephen Daldry

Post-WWII Germany: Nearly a decade after his affair with an older woman came to a mysterious end, law student Michael Berg re-encounters his former lover as she defends herself in a war-crime trial.

Good movie, great performances, and a great cast. The story is very interesting and it is well played out. The only complaints is the aging process of Kate's character, it didn't seem authentic. The movie seemed a little bit to long, and there was just so much unneeded nudity. I totally get their relationship was mostly sexual with some reading involved, but in some scenes it just seemed unnecessary.
Super Reviewer
December 13, 2008
i was so looking forward to this movie thinking yes this is going to be brilliant but i was disappointed and bored!
the movie is long winded and drawn out with to much unnessecary nudity, i understand they were getting romance across but theres only so much sex i want to see in a movie!
it doesnt surprise me the kate winslet won an oscar award as she was sensational and portrayed the part very well!
i like the story i think it was a different brilliant way of having the romance and nazi jew story but just to slow and boring in places that i lost interest, i didnt get a sense of justice either as she didnt have to spend 20yrs of her life in jail and fiennes character could also have prevented this it just annoyed me but its an ok movie!
The Gandiman
Super Reviewer
January 7, 2010
Daldry keeps the temperature to "chilly" for too long. Icy Winslet delivers but without Kross on screen, "Reader" stays frigid and feels like watching ice melt.
Super Reviewer
January 4, 2009
A controversial love story which is well acted and told in great sequence. What starts out as an unconventional tale of love escalates into an emotionally drawn journey between the unlikely pair.

This is a film that certainly makes an emotional impact, my only critism, (although a very small one) would be the make up for the aging process, which didn?t seem as realistic as it could have.

A well acted part by David Kross.
Super Reviewer
December 13, 2009
Behind the mystery lies a truth that will make you question everything you know.
Super Reviewer
October 28, 2009
This Film was shown at the 2009 Sofia International Film Festival, I love most of the film Festivals because they show movies not normally seen on the big screen in most US Theaters?. This one is not exception. Kate Winslet plays an excellent part, as her past is kept hidden and secret during most of the movie. But I had a notion with her accent who she was. The movie stars off and about mid way through takes a unbelievable twist. I am doing my best not to give it away. David Kross does well, is that real or special effects in the bath tub scene, ha ha. You will have to see to know what I am talking about. This is a cloudy day home alone movie with about 2-3 hrs to just sit and take it in. No Children allowed please. 5 Stars
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