Friday, March 27, 2009

The Reader (Stephen Daldry, 2008)

**½
USA/Germany




Bernhard Schlink’s novel was a solid, moderately sophisticated, resolutely commercial exploration of enduring German post-Holocaust guilt, with its primary strength being its sifting of a prestige-packaged-out topic through the repercussions of an illicit erotic attachment between a pubescent wimp and an erratic cipher twice his age.

None of the book’s sincere questioning or sense of time and place survives this ossified, atrociously directed adaptation, whose chief reason for existing is several people’s ravenous Oscar-hunger. It’s a relief that the otherwise lovely Kate Winslet finally has hers, so that she can stop selecting parts based on their FYC-campaigns. But the performance itself is all wrong from her first tentative spurts of a flaky Tscherman akcent through to her insistence on emphasising the cuddly, misunderstood simpleton behind the outwardly cold Nazi and all the way through to her uneasy pitching of a youthful timbre against the dazzlingly 1930s-biopic-pasty aging make-up.

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