Kate Winslet and Lena Olin came walking down the steps dressed in their 4 and 5 inch heels making fun of themselves and how they were a little overdressed for the Landmark Sunshine Theater in the lower East Side of Manhattan. They did have an excuse though. They had come directly from the New York premiere at The Ziegfeld of their new movie, soon to be released, “The Reader.”
The room they entered along with actor Ralph Fiennes, director Stephen Daldry, and producer Donna Gigliotti, who stepped up after former producers Sydney Pollack and Anthony Minghella passed away before production was complete, was a small theater filled with several hundred fellow actors, writers, film company sponsors, and their guests; all of whom had been waiting for the arrival of the movie makers scheduled to attend a Q&A of the film they had just had the privilege to view.
I have to say I knew nothing about “The Reader” before Wednesday night. I hadn’t read the book and somehow I don’t believe I had viewed any trailers before seeing it. Ultimately then for me there were twists and turns and several surprises. The story moved in directions I never dreamed it would go. That being said for those of you who didn’t read the book or don’t know the story, I don’t want to give it away. Personally I went to the film on the strength of its participants, the actors, writers, and director. I also knew I had the unusual opportunity to be in a small group after the screening with the ability to ask them a question if I had the nerve. Most of all these were artists I had long admired, and I could not pass up the opportunity to be in close proximity, and I am glad I did not.
For those of you who read and loved the book, I don’t know if you will feel as strongly about the movie, as I did not have that perspective when viewing it. What I will say is that the acting and portrayal of the characters seemed honest, raw, real, and brave. Kate Winslet’s role as Hannah, was to me very vulnerable and strong. She did what she felt she had to do or was supposed to do while hiding behind her own personal shame and somewhat self-inflicted inadequacy. Her personal “disabilities” as she seemed to view them led her life and directed much of its course and the outcome of those who were willingly and unwillingly touched by her actions as a result.
Ralph Fiennes played a much smaller part of the older “Michael” reflecting back on his past. The “young Michael” played by German actor David Kross, I thought was astounding and easily an Oscar nominating role! He had a very difficult complex emotional part to play in the unwinding story. Actually there wasn’t a character in the movie, who I believe did not have a complex role, but I have to say I was very impressed with Kross’ performance and all the nuances he added to his character. Wednesday night during the Q&A Winslet and Daltry also brought up the story of being in Germany and having to hold off on their filming for three days until Kross turned 18 and could legally participate in some of the love scenes with Winslet. She also mentioned Kross’ emotional maturity and how he was not a little boy. His performance definitely proved that to be evident.
Lena Olin played two small parts in the film, each of them carrying a strong delivery. I always love Olin on the screen.
It was obvious during the Q&A the huge respect that all the actors had for one another and the affinity that seemed to run deep between the actors and director Stephen Daldry. The actors all seemed to adore him and loved working with him. They in turn all paid their respects to award winning screenplay writer David Hare.
“The Reader” was not a perfect movie, but who needs perfect? If you look for it you can always find fault or things that one might do differently. Me I probably would have had the film run a little shorter, but then again I could never have been so masterful in either performance or direction. I believe this movie was excellent and is sure to bring about some top nominations come Oscar time, which is just around the corner. I definitely recommend it!