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The Reader

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At its best — which fortunately is most of the time — The Reader feels like the glory days of Miramax, the mom-and-pop (literally) company that Harvey and Bob Weinstein started three decades ago in their parents’ basement. Combining the literary pedigree of Bernhard Schlink’s acclaimed 1995 best-seller, an acclaimed director (Stephen Daldry of The Hours and Billy Elliott fame) and a prestigious cast (the ineffable Kate Winslet, Ralph Fiennes, Lena Olin and Bruno Ganz among others), The Reader is the kind of accessible, sumptuously crafted highbrow movie that used to be the Weinsteins’ bread and butter. Told in a series of flashbacks (Schlink related the story chronologically in his book), the bulk of the action takes place in three timeframes. In 1958 Berlin, 15-year-old schoolboy Michael Berg (impressive newcomer David Kross) makes the acquaintance of “older woman” Hanna Schmitz (Winslet). Despite the brilliant Winslet’s typically fearless performance, Hanna remains a cruel, tantalizing enigma until the very end. It’s precisely that sort of richly purposeful ambiguity that makes the film such a rewarding experience. HHH 1/2

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