User Score
7.1

Generally favorable reviews- based on 137 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 92 out of 137
  2. Negative: 15 out of 137
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  1. KL
    Dec 30, 2008
    1
    There is a serious problem with this film. The first third of it includes graphic sex scenes between an adult and a teenager. And in this case, the actor portraying a teen is actually a teen. Since when is it legal to shoot full frontal nudity with kids??
  2. MarkB.
    Jan 15, 2009
    3
    Call me crazy, but didn't Sophie's Choice work far better in 1982 when the young protagonist's first love was a Nazi VICTIM, not a perpetrator? The title character and narrator of Stephen Daldry's filmization of Bernhard Schlink's bestseller is a callow creature who hooks up with a streetcar conductor (Kate Winslet) in the 1950s, and due to her demand that he read Call me crazy, but didn't Sophie's Choice work far better in 1982 when the young protagonist's first love was a Nazi VICTIM, not a perpetrator? The title character and narrator of Stephen Daldry's filmization of Bernhard Schlink's bestseller is a callow creature who hooks up with a streetcar conductor (Kate Winslet) in the 1950s, and due to her demand that he read aloud to her before sex, finds that The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn can be just as effective an aphrodisiac as Lady Chatterley's Lover. Through a series of contrived coincidences, he later learns that his friend with benefits had previously been a concentration camp guard, and he grows into Ralph Fiennes, experiencing a higher-than-average degree of Ralph Fiennes guilt. Stage director Daldry's one watchable film remains his first, Billy Elliott; otherwise he's the reigning king of WTHITA (What-The-Hell-Is-THIS-About) cinema, a first cousin to the WTHWTH (Why-The-Hell-Was-This-Made) film; his second effort, The Hours, taught that the height of 1950s women's liberation was to, under the inspiration of a suicidal novelist, dump your adoring husband, thus shattering your sensitive little boy's self-image and eventually destroying his life. The message of The Reader seems to be "Nazi stooges need love too, especially if they're illiterate." Mind you, there's a universe of difference between HUMANIZING evil (as Fiennes did beautifully in Schindler's List) and whitewashing it; The Boy in the Striped Pajamas may have its share of haters, but at least it aptly communicates the horror of the camps. The Reader, in a misguided attempt to build sympathy for its central figure, deliberately abstracts her crimes and their effects, keeping us at a calculated distance...and no, a last-minute coda featuring Lena Olin (who's nevertheless excellent) doesn't help. I have no problem with Winslet winning a Golden Globe (and most likely an Oscar) for her portrayal; she admirably delivers a completely unsentimental performance that in no way buys into the filmmakers' apparent intent--in fact, under the circumstances perhaps she should also be up for a Congressional Medal of Honor. As for the rest of The Reader, if I want to look at Nazi porn (or, more precisely, if I'm forced to at gunpoint), I'll rent out Ilsa, She-Wolf of the SS or one of its sequels, which at least have the ever-so-slight advantage of unpretentiousness. Collapse
  3. MaciejC.
    Mar 14, 2009
    1
    Kate Winslet deserved her Oscar, but definitely not for this movie. As noticed by Ron Rosenbaum in 'Slate', Hollywood seems to believe that if a film is about Holocaust, it must be acclaimed. And this particular flim is about a mass murderer who - the film suggests - we should feel sympathy for because she couldn't read; and because she didn't know that what she had Kate Winslet deserved her Oscar, but definitely not for this movie. As noticed by Ron Rosenbaum in 'Slate', Hollywood seems to believe that if a film is about Holocaust, it must be acclaimed. And this particular flim is about a mass murderer who - the film suggests - we should feel sympathy for because she couldn't read; and because she didn't know that what she had done - namely, burning 300 women alive and selecting others to be gassed - was part of a bigger thing called 'Holocaust'. What should be noted here is that the story, although entangled with true historical events, is fictional. The illiterate female mass murdered was an invention of German writer Bernhard Schlink, author of the adapted novel. Rosenbaum, in his article, writes that the movie - apart from trying to evoke sympathy for a Nazi killer - acquits the 'ordinary Germans' of WWII era of acceptance of Holocaust, and the illiterate character is a symbol of Germans that supposedly had no idea about extermination of Jews - while in fact, they were perfectly aware of it. Personally, i think there are many other movies where this claim of 'unknowing Germans' (or Germans massively opposing Hitler) is made more blatantly. And although I realized how little and distorted is the historical knowledge of an average American, i really didn't think they will fall for this story: it seemed too absurd to me. I was wrong. The film affects almost anyone because of its use of the strongest weapon known to filmmakers: nudity. We see a beautiful woman having a passionate affair with a teenage boy - long before the woman turns out to be a Holocaust murderer. We can't judge what she has done (and what wasn't depicted onscreen, of course), remembering her naked body. Kate Winslet's body. Other big names on the film poster? Ralph Fiennes, Sydney Pollack, Frank Minghella (last movie he's produced), the director Stephen Daldry... All of them created a film that makes us sympathetic of a Nazi killer. It doesn't make us consider what she has done - the way the events are depicted makes sympathy the only proper reaction. What good can I say about this movie? Well, Kate Winslet (without an aging make-up) still looks great, and she has many occasions to show it up. A few truly amazing stills of her are the best things you can extract from this movie. What, a disrespect for a brilliant actress? Not as evident as this film has - for any kind of commonsense morality. Expand
  4. Apr 27, 2013
    3
    It is hard to like a film that is so depressing and dull at the same time with characters less interesting than blank wallpaper. The film doesn't give you anything to care about or notice besides the characters being naked half the time in the movie.
  5. Jan 11, 2014
    0
    I would only say: bad, bad movie. The protagonist isn't able to act, and the screenplay was atrocious and very bad. The main theme was trivial and repetitive. There are many other better movies about this theme and I think The Reader isn't absolutely brilliant or good one. Bye!
  6. Jan 21, 2015
    3
    Stephen Daldry's take on Bernhard Schlink's controversial novel is as cold a Holocaust movie as I've ever seen. The pseudo-intellectual mumbo-jumbo the film exudes, cleverly disguises its hollow and empty premise. It embraces irrelevance and glosses over relevance. Had it not been for standout performances from Winslet, Fiennes and Kross, there would've been absolutely no reason to praiseStephen Daldry's take on Bernhard Schlink's controversial novel is as cold a Holocaust movie as I've ever seen. The pseudo-intellectual mumbo-jumbo the film exudes, cleverly disguises its hollow and empty premise. It embraces irrelevance and glosses over relevance. Had it not been for standout performances from Winslet, Fiennes and Kross, there would've been absolutely no reason to praise the movie. The Reader doesn't just fail as a character study but it also fails in being a meaningful film. Expand
Metascore
58

Mixed or average reviews - based on 38 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 19 out of 38
  2. Negative: 2 out of 38
  1. Reviewed by: David Ansen
    60
    The Reader can feel stilted and abstract: the film's only flesh-and-blood characters spend half the movie separated. But its emotional impact sneaks up on you. The Reader asks tough questions, and, to its credit, provides no easy answers.
  2. An engaging period drama. But German postwar guilt is not the most winning subject matter for the holiday season.
  3. Reviewed by: Todd McCarthy
    50
    Stephen Daldry's film is sensitively realized and dramatically absorbing, but comes across as an essentially cerebral experience without gut impact.