I saw the movie The Reader this past weekend. This movie was notable for two reasons: 1) lending further credence to my theory that Kate Winslet loves to take her clothes off for the camera; and 2) its completely idiotic premise.
The tagline for the movie is “how far would you go to protect a secret?” and while that’s an intriguing question, it helps if the secret is one worthy of protecting. In watching this movie, I was reminded of another movie built upon the same premise: Sommersby.
Of course, Sommersby contains an equally absurd plot point (i.e., the woman can’t quite tell if this imposter is her husband or not), but the secret is at least a noble one. In it, the title character is, well, not the title character. He pretends to be Sommersby so that he can live in Sommersby’s house, use his money, his land, and his wife. This all comes back to haunt him, however, and in the end, he must make a decision: Should he admit he’s not Sommersby, thereby saving his own life, or continue the ruse, thereby saving the livelihood of all the townsfolk and his “wife’s” honor?
I won’t ruin it for you, but you have to admit, this is quite a quandary. But let’s compare this compelling predicament with the absurdity of The Reader.
In the Reader, Winslet’s character essentially has to choose between two evils. Here – play along – I’ll set out her two options and you decide which one you’d rather people believed about you:
1. You were a Nazi who gave the orders for hundreds of women and children to be burned to death.
2. You were employed by the Nazis and were afraid to go against their orders for fear of your own life. Oh, and also you’re illiterate.
Wait! Before you make your choice, let’s look at these points a little more. Suppose that point #1 is not true, and point #2 is true. Does that help your decision-making? Let’s also suppose that point #1 carries with it a sentence of life in prison, while point #2 carries with it a four-year term. Still undecided? Don’t worry, this crappy movie will help you sort it all out.
Coupling this with confusing editing, a plodding exposition and wholly unnecessary scenes, and you have the worst Kate Winslet movie I’ve ever seen.
The Reader: C