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It's AICN's First Review For Best Picture Hopeful THE READER (Starring Kate Winslet and Ralph Fiennes)!

Beaks here...

"The big problem with this movie is David Hare's script."

That'd be a first. But if "dense" and "heady" qualifies as a "problem", then I think I know what our reviewer means. Hare's been making his name on "dense" and "heady" since PLENTY debuted at the Lyttleton Theatre in 1978. He's a brilliant dramatist. And he's not too shabby as a screenwriter either! Even though Philip Glass's monotonous score for THE HOURS gave me a migraine, Hare's script was still good enough to help the film pick up nine Academy Award nominations. Hoping to replicate that success (if not surpass it), producer Scott Rudin has reunited Hare and director Stephen Daldry for THE READER. The production did hit a minor snag when Nicole Kidman was forced to drop out of the lead role due to pregnancy, but this actually allowed Rudin and Daldry to re-offer the part to their first choice: Kate Winslet. Good move. We know our (very articulate) reviewer has a problem with Hare, but how does the rest of the film work? Let's find out!
Hey Moriarty, I caught an advance screening of THE READER at the AMC Lincoln Square last night. The film was directed by Stephen Daldry (of BILLY ELLIOT and THE HOURS fame) and is based on the novel by Bernard Schlink (which I've never read). Although I know this is in the early stages and wish I could say great things about it (because I love Daldry & Kate Winslet), I can't say that I completely got the film or REALLY understood what it's all about. Winslet (always amazing) plays a woman in WWII Germany by the name of Hanna who has an affair with Michael, a MUCH younger man played by David Kross (It looks like this is his first American film, and he almost steals the movie). Ralph Fiennes, playing the older Michael, unexpectedly crosses paths with Hanna years later after they have lost touch. Michael never really gets over his first love, even when she disappears without a trace. No spoilers here (I promise), because there's a big one – and when it comes, it's devastating. Daldry's direction is solid. The film looks beautiful with exact period detail, from the sets to the costumes, and lush cinematography. And, as expected, Daldry got great performances from his leads: the aforementioned Kross, the always captivating Winslet (OK, one tiny dig: Winslet's makeup was horrendous, and at times distracting), and the handsome Fiennes, who's never given a bad performance (well, except maybe in STRANGE DAYS). (Beaks note: No, he was great there, too!) The big problem with this movie is David Hare's script. There are some effective scenes, most notably Hanna's seduction of the young Michael and on the other end of the spectrum, the intense scenes of the Nazi trials. But the story is dense and heady and may be too smart for its own good. Like in THE HOURS, Hare's script jumps back and forth between multiple time periods, but unlike that film, this requires some serious concentration to follow the story. When I fell behind, I got lost and had no idea what was going on. In the end, I don't know what the story was trying to say: is it about forgiveness and assuaging guilt? Is the story really trying to make an argument for forgiving Nazis? I can't imagine that's the real point of THE READER, but I did get that impression from Hare's script. As a result, the fast-paced editing made me dizzy. I left the theater thinking that Daldry and Hare need to figure what their story is really about, because it left me really confused (and I know I wasn't the only one). It's a bit disappointing that I felt this way because I'm such a big fan of Daldry's and I loved THE HOURS. Daldry makes it compelling to watch, but I think there is plenty more to do before this film is released (we were told this was the first screening). I'll be interested to see what the final product is (although I don't know how they will fix Winslet's horrible makeup). Fingers crossed because this has too many talented filmmakers and great performers to get overlooked.

On a somber note, THE READER will be one of the last offerings from Mirage Enterprises, the production company formed by Anthony Minghella and Sydney Pollack. It looks like Kenneth Lonergan's long-delayed MARGARET will be the very last Mirage release. God, I hope that's a triumphant sendoff to these two great artists. THE READER opens December 12, 2008.

Readers Talkback
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  • Aug. 28, 2008, 12:14 a.m. CST

    Firsters suck

    by macheesmo3

    I hope this is good but good this seems tedious the more I hear about it

  • Aug. 28, 2008, 12:15 a.m. CST


    by macheesmo3

    my first first and I make a typo... should be God instead of the second good

  • Aug. 28, 2008, 12:22 a.m. CST

    More Kate Winslet? More?!

    by thebearovingian

    Seriously?! More Kate Winslet?!<p>Why?! Why more Kate Winslet?!<p>Yes, I'd sleep with her. That's not the point!

  • Aug. 28, 2008, 12:26 a.m. CST


    by mrbeaks

    She wasn't in a movie all last year. Good to have her back.

  • Aug. 28, 2008, 12:35 a.m. CST

    I'll bet...

    by Lord John Whorfin

    She's really a ghost. That's the big twist. That's my guess.

  • Aug. 28, 2008, 12:36 a.m. CST

    Or imaginary...

    by Lord John Whorfin

    Either a ghost or imaginary.

  • Aug. 28, 2008, 12:53 a.m. CST

    Will THIS be the year Winslet finally gets her Oscar?

    by flickchick85

    Sounds like she's got 2 good possibilities with this and Revolutionary Road. I hope so, she's long overdue. Actually, it would be great if she and Leo both got theirs (for the same movie?) this year. If they actually deserve them, of course. But when don't they anymore?

  • Aug. 28, 2008, 12:56 a.m. CST

    It would be ironic if she won for this after EXTRAS...

    by flickchick85

    since she was doing a WWII flick for Oscar bait in that.<p>"We get it, it was grim, move on."

  • Aug. 28, 2008, 12:59 a.m. CST


    by Lord John Whorfin

    she's aging in reverse!

  • Aug. 28, 2008, 1:23 a.m. CST


    by Series7

    Winslet? Winslet? Winslet? Nope not coming up with anything? Who is she again? Didn't she married to Harvey Keitel?

  • Aug. 28, 2008, 1:27 a.m. CST

    the best editor's note ever!

    by The InSneider

    way to go beaks! i never knewyou had it in ya. strange days fucking rocks and lenny nero is the shit! mace is one of the toughest women in movie history. juliette lewis nudity. hardly wait. sizemore, wincott, fichtner, d'onofrio, sommer, edson. skunk anasie, opening robbery sequence. running on the beach. new year's eve 2000. jeriko1. cameron is the shit. looking forward to bigelow's hurt locker.

  • Aug. 28, 2008, 1:30 a.m. CST

    The Informers

    by mrbong

    why is there nothing on this site about The Informers, a film that looks like we should be hoping scores Oscars and awards?

  • Aug. 28, 2008, 1:36 a.m. CST

    Every time I close my eyes...

    by thebearovingian

    I see Kate Winslet. Oh, there she is again.

  • Aug. 28, 2008, 1:41 a.m. CST

    I second that...

    by dr_buggerlugs

    Strange Days utterly f'ing rules.

  • Aug. 28, 2008, 2:21 a.m. CST

    Ralph Fiennes never gave a GOOD performance!

    by DerLanghaarige

    He's one of the worst actors I've ever seen!

  • Aug. 28, 2008, 2:43 a.m. CST


    by drew mcweeny

    ... we actually ran a few reviews of THE INFORMERS a couple of weeks back.

  • Aug. 28, 2008, 2:55 a.m. CST

    And BURN AFTER READING is getting good reviews!

    by palimpsest

    See? The Coens can do funny again!

  • Aug. 28, 2008, 3:01 a.m. CST

    Well, he DID admit, that he got a lot of the story confused

    by Wile-E

    ... but I get the impression that he did not even understand the setup. When he writes "Winslet (always amazing) plays a woman in WWII Germany by the name of Hanna who has an affair" that's totally wrong. While the story deals in part with WWII the main storyline (the one with the boy) starts in the late fifties. I don't think Hare and Daldry had a possibility to change the timeline since the time setting is always important in this story for it to make sense. So if he didn't even get the basic premise of the story, its no wonder he got it confused. But that also makes me doubt his quality as a reviewer.

  • Aug. 28, 2008, 3:01 a.m. CST

    Yep, DerLangharrige is a fucking idiot....

    by TheWaqman

    its officially proven now in this talkback. One of the worst actors you've ever seen? Seriously? Anyways hopefully they fix this movie up a little. It sounds too good to be ruined by shitty editing and pacing.

  • Aug. 28, 2008, 3:10 a.m. CST

    mention of STRANGE DAYS

    by Mr Gorilla

    reminded me what a brilliant film it was. FIENNES was wonderful in it.

  • Aug. 28, 2008, 3:44 a.m. CST

    The Hours bored me stupid

    by newc0253

    So, if the reviewer loved the Hours, I'd be willing to give this one a chance.

  • Aug. 28, 2008, 4:21 a.m. CST

    Yes seriously.

    by DerLanghaarige

    I won't mention "The Avengers", because this would be unfair for everybody, but in most of his movies, he walks around with the same "can I get my paycheck now, please" look, in the rest he is overacting like Matthew Lillard (without the grimaces).

  • Aug. 28, 2008, 4:35 a.m. CST


    by Iowa Snot Client

    Finnes + Angela Bassett = crazy delicious. Can I just rewatch End of the Affair instead of seeing this? I saw minutes of The Hours and it felt like days.

  • Aug. 28, 2008, 5:35 a.m. CST

    "...reviewer has a problem with Hare..."

    by thinboyslim.

    no beaks, it sounds like you have a problem with the reviewer. what's up with sliding in that line about Fiennes in Strange Days??

  • Aug. 28, 2008, 7:28 a.m. CST

    Strange Days would have been great but for Angela Basset

    by dr sauch

    How did she ever get work!? Its ALWAYS an exasperated character!!! All she can do is act pissed off, and not in a cool 'tough' way, in an obnoxious 'yelling at the bank teller while the line stretches out the door on a hot day' kind of way. I hate Angela Basset. She scars otherwise great movies.

  • Aug. 28, 2008, 7:38 a.m. CST

    Kidman - reprieve not snag

    by filmcoyote

    i don't think Kidman having to drop out is a snag. Losing Kidman and gaining Winslet will get me to see this movie. I can't stand plastic-faced Kidman. Any movie that has a chance to drop Kidman for someone else should consider itself better off

  • Aug. 28, 2008, 8:35 a.m. CST

    I'll bet: The twist is, she's seducing her own son

    by V'Shael

    Hence the massive age difference. And someone may be able to call a Nazi a legitimate mother-fscker on the screen.

  • Aug. 28, 2008, 8:50 a.m. CST

    I like Glass' score for The Hours.

    by Knuckleduster

    It's pretty.

  • Aug. 28, 2008, 8:56 a.m. CST

    I was at this screening

    by fs20rh

    I was at this screening as well and agree with some of what the reviewer has mentioned although I didn't really have a problem with her make up. My biggest complaint was that the ending is just absolutely horrible and really inexcusable, but also that the beginning portion of the film feels unfocused and the audience doesn't really understand what story this movie is trying to tell. I feel like the movie doesn't really begin until about halfway in and Kate Winslet's character leaves. I'd also like to just say that Winslet is wonderful as always(of course lately I feel like I'm always watching her have sex in every movie she is in and she has a lot in this movie), but Ralph Fiennes and Winslet have ONE scene together in the whole film and I think there's something to be said about his ability to really capture all the years of history and absolute heartbreak between these 2 people in a scene that couldn't have been more than 5 minutes. Really solid performances all around, but a very unfocused and disjointed film. They said it's a rough cut, but I don't really know what they could do to help it because it seems like the problems lie in the script.

  • Aug. 28, 2008, 8:59 a.m. CST

    just another note

    by fs20rh

    I said the problems are with the script, but as I have never read the book this is based on the flaw might be in the source material. There is a lot going on in this movie that I really like and will give audiences a lot to talk about and there is a moment late in the film that moved me tremendously, but I wish that level of storytelling could have carried through the whole film.

  • Aug. 28, 2008, 9:27 a.m. CST

    Whatever happened to Joseph Finnes

    by BobParr

    The guy was the next big thing 10 years ago after SHAKESPEAR and then he virtually disappeared. I just read his IMBD and most of his movies are so obscure.

  • Aug. 28, 2008, 9:31 a.m. CST

    Kate Winslet is this generation's Paul Newman (almost)

    by BobParr

    She's not as good Newman but she is an amazing actress who gets nominated and overlooked all of the time. I guess Halle Berry and Nicole Kidman are better than her according to Hollywood. She will probably get an Oscar when she's way past her prime for some mediocre COLOR OF MONEY type of bullshit role.

  • Aug. 28, 2008, 9:43 a.m. CST

    angela basset...

    by dingus khan a yale educated actress. and, yes, her ability is still questionable. <p> strange days was really, very good. <p> remember when ralph fiennes did 'maid in manhattan?' what the fuck was that about?

  • Aug. 28, 2008, 9:53 a.m. CST

    I liked Ralph in "Land of the Blind"

    by Ultron ver 2.0

    Great movie, really fucked up/tragic turn of events in the story.

  • Aug. 28, 2008, 10:01 a.m. CST

    Angela Basset should have been Ororo in the X-men films...

    by akiraclass

    ...and Julianne Moore should have been Invisible Girl in the FF films (if they were any good).

  • Aug. 28, 2008, 10:06 a.m. CST

    Winslet is this generation's Newman?

    by Plathismo

    An interesting comparison, BobParr, but I never wanted to have sex with Paul Newman. Not even 'Cat On A Hot Tin Roof'-era Newman. My mother did, though. Anyhow, I agree the Kidman/Winslet swap was not a downward move, and not a lateral move, but a step least pulchritudinally. Kidman's done something to her face that has rendered her smile just this side of hideous. Whether it's excessive botox or surgery I couldn't say, but it's unsettling. A pity, too, because as a recent re-viewing of 'Eyes Wide Shut' attests, she was gorgeous back in the day.

  • Aug. 28, 2008, 10:36 a.m. CST

    Strange Days was the best Gibson Cyberpunk Book

    by DKT

    That William Gibson never wrote. Seriously, that movie rocked and is so underappreciated.

  • Aug. 28, 2008, 10:57 a.m. CST

    dr sauch- exactly

    by Heckles

    I was thinking the same thing. Strange Days is really underrated. Might have to check that flick again.

  • Aug. 28, 2008, 11:04 a.m. CST

    What's with the make-up thing..?

    by Aeghast

    Is the character......deformed or something?

  • Aug. 28, 2008, 12:53 p.m. CST

    I keep forgetting...

    by DarthFloyd

    With the end of the summer, the I-Want-An-Award films start spreading. Some think of it as the artistic time in film, I find it's the perfect time to catch up on other hobbies. If I want to watch people suffer through grittienss of real life, I'll watch my co-workers more.

  • Aug. 28, 2008, 1:34 p.m. CST


    by mrbong

    oops, sorry. with the large amounts of foul language this site tends to get blocked at my office (yeah, i know, i am just as guilty) so i don't always get to read the stuff. will see if i can search for it, or will someone take pity on a BEE junkie and hand me the link?

  • Aug. 28, 2008, 1:38 p.m. CST


    by mrbong

    can't think of a bad performance, really. no fan of Strange Days, but his performance was probably enough to get me through to the end, now that i think about it. he was great in the (shall we say strange) film Spider, and awesome as The Tooth Fairy. as for Ms Winslet, same story really. can't think of a bad performance. nice one if both get awards and that, but please, only for actual worthy performances and not "well, they are good and we haven't given them an award ever (or for a while), so the winner is......."

  • Aug. 28, 2008, 2:45 p.m. CST

    is kate nake?

    by El Borak

    that's all i care about.

  • Aug. 28, 2008, 2:51 p.m. CST

    Fiennes and Kate

    by oisin5199

    Okay, first, Kate is a goddess among women and SHE's never given a bad performance. Fiennes on the other hand comes off extremely wooden. I think he's very boring as a performer. The only thing I remember really liking him in was Cronenberg's Spider. And his Voldemort? Come on. His brother, Joseph, however, is a much more dynamic actor and I wish he was in more films.

  • Aug. 28, 2008, 6:35 p.m. CST

    Fiennes is an acting god

    by Maceox

    in Shindler's List. One of the great movie monsters of all time.

  • Aug. 28, 2008, 6:37 p.m. CST

    Also Quiz show

    by Maceox

    The English Patient, Spider, The Constant Gardener. C'mon give the man some love.

  • Aug. 29, 2008, 3:56 a.m. CST

    The book

    by AnnaBlume

    I've read the book twice now and, while I didn't really care for it the first time around, when I read it the second time (about 10 years later), I thought it was absolutely fantastic. This combined with the talent involved makes me really hopeful for the film. I do wonder why fs20rh found the ending to be "just absolutely horrible and really inexcusable"... I'm glad the reviewer liked David Kross's performance so much though. I've seen him before in "Knallhart" ("Tough Enough") and thought he was fantastic and I'm REALLY looking forward to a German fantasy film that's going to be released really soon: "Krabat".

  • Aug. 29, 2008, 9:06 a.m. CST

    SPOILER ALERT ( Why i didn't like the ending)

    by fs20rh

    As I said I have never read the book, but the movie ends with Ralph Fiennes taking his daughter to Hanna Schmitz's grave, telling his daughter that he has a surprise for her. His daughter asks who she was and Ralph Fiennes begins to say something and just as he is saying "She was... the movie just stops, the screen goes black and after a few seconds the "THE READER" comes up on the screen. It just was so jarring in context with the rest of the film and kind of went along with what my friend and I both felt was just a very unfocused and unclear script. The way the whole ending was constructed was something i would have expected from M.Night Shyamalan not Stephen Daldry and not in a dramatic film, just didn't fit and nothing that had occured up to that point allowed the audience to understand what the ending was trying to say. It was just incredibly jarring and really hurt what had become about 2/3rds through a really moving love story Just my feelings on it and I'm sure other people may think the complete opposite. I plan on picking the book up either today or tomorrow because I'm really intrigued by this fascinating story and want to experience it the way it was intended But like i said before the performances all around are really wonderful, kate winslet says more with her silences than half the actresses today say with dialogue. There are glimpses of brilliance, but the script just can't decide what is the real story here. hope that explains it lol

  • Aug. 29, 2008, 8:01 p.m. CST

    "Couldn't give a fuck about the Holocaust"

    by Zeldas

    Kate Winslet should be in every movie. I have a major girl crush on her. AND I know I can't be the only one who thinks The English Patient sucks nutz (don't even get me started on The Hours). Fiennes sucks in it (although he was great in In Bruges and Strange Days). The only good things about that movie are Juliette Binoche's scenes. But I'll see The Reader because of Winslet. "Playin a mental . . . that's another way to get an Oscar."