Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Reader (not _iam)

Sure, Nazis are bad. But is it okay to sleep with them if they're really hot?

That's the challenging question the new Stephen Daldry (Billy Elliot, The Hours) Oscar-baiting movie asks.

The answer appears to be a qualified "yes".

I'm being flip about the totally super-serial movie The Reader wherein a 15-year-old boy ends up involved with the stoic 37-year-old Hanna Scmitz (Kate Winslet) who teaches him ze ways of love.

This just in: Kate Winslet looks good naked.

But that's not really important when you're dealing with, you know, deep thoughts.

You might not even notice that the film is produced by ZOMBIES! OK, no one's seen Anthony Minghella and Sydney Pollack emerge from their graves, but no one's not seen them, either.

OK, ok. I'll try to calm down a bit.

Wait, why isn't this child porn? I thought it was against the law to have sex scenes involving minors or anyone pretending to be a minor or a drawing of a putative or even fictional minor.

Let me try this again: This movie is about Michael Berg, played half by Ralph Fiennes and half by David Kross. Fiennes played the top half.

And David Kross was a lot funnier on "Mr. Show".

I guess I don't have much to say about this movie. It's good, and all, for some definition of "good". Good acting, and plenty of it, of course. (Besides Winslet and Fiennes, there's also Lena Olin and Bruno "Hitler" Ganz.) Good cinematography. It moves pretty quickly, though some seem to think the first half (with all the sex in it) is slow, it sets up the 2nd and 3rd act, wherein Berg's life is ruined by the events in the first act.

I think this movie works as a character study of a boy who was too young to have an affair with an older woman and whose life is basically ruined by the affair for one reason or another.

I think it's supposed to be about the difficulties of the Nazi generation and the next generation in reconciling those actions. (Turns out war sucks and genocide has repercussions. Huh. Who knew?) There isn't a lot of empathy for the Nazis, which is good, I guess (see first sentence) but the forms this lack of empathy takes--show trials, expressions of desire to basically kill one's parents (which oh-so-coincidentally takes place in the '60s, when lots of non-Nazis were talking about the same thing).

If it is, it partially misses there, because Michael is all messed up before he finds out Hanna is a Nazi, and then after he finds out she's a Nazi, he takes ten years or so but finally decides to send her books-on-tape. Also, he's almost completely non-functional as a human being, so he's obviously punishing himself, too.

So, he he doesn't forgive her, exactly, but he doesn't break it off exactly, either.

Dunno. I guess it's a reasonably murky topic so presenting a clear resolution would probably seem too pat. At the same time, it's so freakin' morose, I sort of have this counter-urge to laugh at the whole thing.

Your mileage may very. After all, it's no laughing matter.

Update: Be sure to check this out as well.

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