The Reading Room Reviews
This must be the most naive person in the world (Jones) as he fulfills his dead wife's request to pass along their library to the streets of LA.
Very true to form, the Reading Room, as it is called, is burned out once and despised by local preachers, gangs, and mothers. But to everyone's surprise, it ends in HallMark Hall of Fame wonderfulness.
If you love sappy movies, this one takes the cake. If you love deeply moving movies, this one also takes the cake.
Two thumbs up for The Reading Room.
James Earl Jones is a widower (with endless financial resources) who decides to open a small study room filled with books down in the ghetto. Amazingly kids just start drifting in begging for his books and help, as if the school libraries and public libraries just didn't exist.
Jones plays the stoic trooper when all the predictable dark clouds begin to gather - in the form of resentful street thugs, hostile community activists and bureaucratic principals.
Somehow the viewer is supposed to be impressed when Jones removes the security gates from his windows and the place is robbed that same night. And be impressed when he tools downtown in his $90,000 Mercedes every morning until he gets jacked at gunpoint, then trots right down to the used car lot to buy himself a $500 beater for the commute.
Rather than impress, however, Jones just comes off the naive idiot. Without Jones' talent it would have played out on screen even uglier.
Eventually Jones starts arguing that some students should have all the time they want to complete the SAT - which would neutralize it as any fair/equitable measure of student accomplishment. Someone should tell Jones the kids he's helping won't be able to move up in life through a good college placement - if there is no fair way to distinguish what they've achieved.
That's when I lunged for the eject button.
RECOMMENDATION: There's plenty of good films about teaching that will inspire and inform; this DVD is better used as a coffee table coaster.
I recommend the movie to my FB-friends.
Though this is a sentimental drama with many sappy scenes, I thought the main character as played by James Earl Jones was well-done without being exaggerated. Jones' William is credibly portrayed, a man who realizes that the reading room not only has the means to positively impact the lives of the youngsters and youth that come into it, but also provides him with a sense of family, something the childless William never truly experienced.
The supporting cast are all well-done - Joanna Cassidy appears in a few scenes, but plays a significant role - she's the schoolteacher who believes that William's efforts are worthwhile and keeps 'feeding' him students that need help with their reading. There are many others - the eight-year-old who asks William to help her read better so she can read her mother's prescription labels, the Hispanic teen who faces peer pressure to participate in criminal activities and who is offered a means of escape from his depressing life, the African-American youth who desperately wishes to get into college despite seemingly insurmountable odds, and those opposed to what the reading room symbolizes - the gang of thugs and also a Reverend who initially thinks William's efforts are futile.
This is a feel-good, inspiring drama about how individuals can make a difference, bring about positive change in a community through tireless, sincere efforts. With the legendary James Earl Jones leading the cast, this is a story that will have you rooting for William and company all the way!