Adapted screenplays in the mix

'The Reader,' 'Defiance,' 'The Secret Life of Bees'

Oscar likes Holocaust stories and this year brings two offbeat takes on those years and their aftermath. “The Reader,” David Hare’s adaptation of Bernhard Schlink’s novel, has gravitas and pedigree as well as a Golden Globe nom. Hare was challenged by a very interior story spread over decades in this look at how one generation’s complicity in murder clouded its relationships with the next.

The second Holocaust pic is “Defiance” from Clayton Frohman and Edward Zwick, adapted from Nechama Tec’s nonfiction book “Defiance: The Bielski Partisans.” Script not only shows Jews as fighters and survivors, not victims, but also wrestles with the moral ambiguities inherent in such brutal circumstances, as well as questions of revenge and redemption.

In an entirely different vein, Gina Prince-Bythewood’s script of “The Secret Life of Bees,” from Sue Monk Kidd’s novel, looks at the time just after the Civil Rights Act, when race relations were in turmoil, through the lives of three African-American sisters and the white runaway they take in. Its fans found it heartwarming, its detractors said it was treacly and sentimental.

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