Associated Press photo
Kate Winslet holds her statue for Best Actress for her performance in “The Reader” last month.
I love Kate Winslet — she was great in “Little Children” and “Revolutionary Road” — but today I saw “The Reader,” for which she won Best Actress (because she won Best Actress for it), and she should have won for her much better performance in “Revolutionary Road.”
“The Reader” starts out promisingly with the tale of a love affair between a 15-year-old boy (played masterfully by David Kross) and a much older German woman named Hanna Schmitz (Winslet), but then the film gradually devolves to the point where it becomes a preachy lecture (rather literally) on how horrible the Holocaust (in which Hanna later becomes embroiled) was.
And “The Reader” doesn’t delve much into Hanna’s psyche as to why she did what she did when she worked for the Nazis, and we are left with the feeling that this isn’t because the filmmakers left it to us to figure it out for ourselves, but because the filmmakers didn’t know how to develop Hanna’s character on film. Indeed, about the only change that the character of Hannah goes through in “The Reader” is increasingly bad makeup jobs on Winslet as her character ages.
Ralph Fiennes adds little to “The Reader” as Michael Berg, Hanna’s teen lover all grown up — the grown-up Michael’s involvement with the even older Hannah lacks passion, heart and even rhyme or reason (why doesn’t he respond to her letters from prison when he is sending her recorded audiotapes there, and why doesn’t he visit her in prison?) — but hey, if Ralph Fiennes is in your movie and your movie is about the Holocaust, you’re sure to win an Oscar, right?
“The Reader” director Stephen Daldry, who also directed “Billy Elliot,” seems to do better with younger actors, such as with Kross, whose performance in “The Reader” rivals Winslet’s (if it doesn’t exceed it), and with Jamie Bell, whose kick-ass performance as the title character in “Billy Elliot” unfortunately didn’t launch the career for Bell that it should have. Daldry with “The Reader” seemed unable to elicit much from Fiennes and not enough from Winslet; directing youth might be more his forte.
All of this aside, did we really need another Holocaust movie?
The Nazis executed about six million Jews in the Holocaust, one of history’s most horrific events.
We get it.
Straight-on Holocaust movies like “Schindler’s List” are been there, done that, so the majority of the crop of more recent Holocaust-themed films seem to be more tangential, such as “The Pianist,” “The Counterfeiters” and “The Reader.”
Still, the genre of the Holocaust/Nazi movie has been exhausted, and the plethora of Holocaust/Nazi films now are serving only to make the historical event more trivial rather than to make it more poignant.
While I know that Holocaust/Nazi movies have “Academy Award nomination” written all over them, I beg Hollywood: Please stop…