Bad Reading Material

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.


Bottom line:

The Reader: C

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3 Responses to Bad Reading Material

  1. Jennifer says:

    I can’t believe I wasted 2 hours of my life on this movie.

  2. I gotta go ahead and disagree with you on this one. It is true: perhaps my judgment was swayed due to the fact that I had read the book and really liked it (it was a best-seller/Oprah book, FWIW [which is actually a good thing to me, I’ve never been disappointed]).

    I think it’s an interesting moral quandary both for the young man and the woman. I can’t remember how much they illustrated it in the movie, but her identity was tightly wrapped up in her illiteracy from a young age. That fear drove her into a job that she didn’t comprehend the full scope of which led her into the crazy situation involving the camps/the disturbing story about the church.

    Also, Cindy says that it’s also about how you can be so afraid of something that you live your whole life without moving ahead. And you just die. Thoreau comes to mind. Driven by a fear of losing their own life, people, even fundamentally good people, can be driven to do immensely shocking things. It’s an uncomfortable and interesting truth.

    I dunno. We dug it.

    But we’re also the weirdos who watch back-to-back episodes of the Sopranos and Twin Peaks every night.

    She hits me.

  3. James says:

    Hey, disagreement allowed!

    The thing is, maybe it’ s SUPPOSED to be an interesting moral quandry, but it didn’t work for me, and it didn’t even fit well with the time and place the movie was set in.

    For example, I was watching an episode of Little House on the Prairie a while back, and in this particular episode, a family’s honor is besmirched when some gossip is printed in the local paper suggesting that they engaged in premarital sex. The “evidence” was that they’d only been married 8 months, yet already had a baby. Of course, the baby was premature. My point is, to me, I just think “who cares? so they had premarital sex, so what?” OR “Whether or not they did have premarital sex, why would they care what other people say about it? Just explain the situation and move on.”

    But that’s me thinking like a non-religious 21st-century urbanite. I know that in religious, 19th-century, small-town America, such gossip was devastating and had terrible repercussions regarding friendships, employment, education and all sorts of things back then.

    But I can’t say the same about this movie – I just couldn’t see that illiteracy was that big of a deal in 1960s Germany. Maybe it was to Hannah (the main character), I mean, of course it was. But when it came down to a life-or-death situation, I had a tough time swallowing the premise. There are far, far more embarrassing skeletons one could have in their closet and, I would think, when faced with the prospect of life in prison, such people would fess up to their unmentionables.

    Anyway, I didn’t hate the movie, it just didn’t move me. I expect a lot from Kate, and this film got a lot of positive buzz around Oscar time. Just wish it would’ve pulled through.

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