Referencing Ron Rosenbaum‘s searing critique of The Reader that was posted on Slate few days ago, L.A. Times columnist Patrick Goldstein says that he’s “not so sure the film’s moral lessons are quite as black and white as Rosenbaum paints them.”
And that’s it. No full-on or half-assed debate follows. Rosenbaum “does burrow into the film’s greatest thematic weakness,” Goldstein allows, “[in] that it uses its 1950s-era story of the sexual intimacy between Winslet and a young German teenager to create audience empathy for a loyal tool in the Nazi campaign to exterminate the German Jews.
“The best part of the piece details one of those classic, carefully orchestrated Oscar taste-maker screenings, where Harvey Weinstein stops by to say hello and Reader filmmaker Stephen Daldry takes polite questions from the audience after showing the film.
“Like a skunk at a garden party, Rosenbaum brought along a friend who was so outraged by the film that he disrupted the decorous atmosphere, inspiring ‘shocked gasps’ when he tells Daldry that the nudity was a manipulative tool used to create intimacy with an unrepentant mass murderer.
“Rosenbaum doesn’t recount Daldry’s response, though he notes that he received an outraged phone call the next morning from the film’s chief publicist, upbraiding him for bringing a rude ‘interloper’ to the screening and reminding him how important it was, in these tough economic times, for films like The Reader to succeed. Incredulous, Rosenbaum responds: ‘You mean, you’re saying I could be the death of Hollywood?’ If only!”