17 February 2009

The Reader

This is my third attempt at this review. I'm a little bit stonewalled. I'm not sure if there's actually much I can say about this film. There's some good acting, it's directed decently, and the story is relatively interesting. I'm just not sure it works, for whatever that means. Whatever sympathy it was trying to garner for the main character, it didn't get it from me.

Perhaps the main thing I'd criticize about this film is something that's becoming more and more prevalent in films today. I'm talking about non-linear narrative structure. In fact, all five of the best picture nominees are structured this way. The strongest of the bunch, Milk, utilizes this to the least extent. In The Reader, it reaches almost a fever pitch. While Ralph Fiennes is capable enough to carry his portion of the story, what is the purpose? This may seem like a very shallow question to ask, I think it's valid. I think that what started out as innovative turned into a gimmick and has now become so commonplace that it's lost whatever spark it might have had. What's really the point of showing us the end of the story first? Sometimes it can work, don't get me wrong, but nowadays it seems like it would be stronger to write a linear story and have to keep the suspense going the old fashioned way.

So that's not much of a review, but it's more in tune with what I want my entries to be. I want the films to spark forays into larger discussions.


Neal said...

Your point about non-linear (NL) structure is actually very timely, and I hadn't even thought about it in the light that recently so many movies are employing it, and not necessarily to the best effect. I think I liked this movie more than you did, but I recognize its flaws as being other-than-wonderful: the NL structure you point out, the break-neck speed of much of the pacing, the odd role of R.F.'s character. But I think over all, I enjoyed it perhaps a little more, and I wasn't as bothered by the NL of the film. I will say that this notion of NL will be present in my thoughts whilst writing my reviews now, and probably during the film-watching, too. I'm going to see the Live-Action Shorts and the one Animated Short I haven't seen yet this week at a theatre up here that is playing them all week long. I'll be curious to note which ones employ NL and note which ones do not.

Candace said...

So I hate to "beat a dead horse" but I am still curious about your thoughts on 7 pounds, mostly because I was so shocked that it didn't get any nods at the Oscars, not even in Adapted screenplay. (I'm pretty confident it was in novel/short story format first.)

David Coley said...

I never got around to seeing Seven Pounds, since it came out right around Christmas and I was playing catch up as it was. When it came out, I remember it getting mostly negative reviews, so that could have had something to do with its lack of nominations. When it comes out on dvd, I'll give it a shot and let you know what I thought. From looking at a couple of sources, I believe that the screenplay was original, but I could be wrong.