Review: Woman in Gold
PLOT: An elderly holocaust survivor (Helen Mirren) returns to her native Austria to reclaim Gustav Klimts famous woman in gold, a priceless piece of art that was stolen from her family by the Nazis. With the painting being a beloved national treasure in Austria, shell have to rely on the legal prowess of her young American lawyer (Ryan Reynolds) in order to take back whats rightfully hers.
REVIEW: WOMAN IN GOLD recently premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival where, despite a lot of hype and potential Oscar buzz going in, the film was rather coolly received by the press. Since then, its apparently been tweaked, but the final result is ultimately just an OK movie, but nowhere near the disaster the Berlin critics were labeling it as.
Certainly, WOMAN IN GOLD isnt going to generate any Oscar buzz at all, but its the kind of life-affirming story that should make it solid counter-programming to the action-packed thrills of FURIOUS 7. Ultimately it feels like a bit of a cable movie, and more suited to home viewing than the big screen, but the based-on-fact story is still pretty fascinating. Helen Mirren plays real-life Holocaust survivor Maria Altmann, and her fight to reclaim the titular woman-in-gold is certainly dramatic in that its incredible what kind of legal hurdles she had to jump through to reclaim a piece of art thats clearly her property. At one point in the movie, someone complains to Altmann that the Holocaust happened so long ago and she counters with fifty years seems like a long time to you?
Granted, the movie takes place in 1998, but still, its only been seventy year not very long all things considered. If WOMAN IN GOLD is going to be controversial at all, itll mostly come from the fact that Austrias legal maneuvering to hold on to the Klimt paintings is portrayed as nothing short of despicable and surprising given how the country has tried to distance themselves from atrocities of the holocaust.
Yet, for all the importance of the subject matter, WOMAN IN GOLD is awfully heavy handed. Director Simon Curtis is clearly trying to make an important movie, but as such he tries a little too hard to tug on the heartstrings. The score by Hans Zimmer and Martin Phipps is omnipresent, and while good, its almost oppressive at times as it undermines the acting. Mirren and ORPHAN BLACKs Tatiana Maslany as the young Maria are so good that they really didnt need the score to constantly remind the audience when theyre supposed to feel something. WOMAN IN GOLD also maybe relies a little too strongly on flashbacks, although they work in that they underscore Marias initial reluctance to return to Austria.
While Mirrens wonderful; sadly Ryan Reynolds isnt quite up to par. He does his best, but the strapping Reynolds efforts to look like an underdog lawyer mostly involve him walking hunched over and wearing bad suits. Reynolds is a great when he gets the right role (see MISSISSIPPI GRIND for proof of that) but hes not quite convincing here. Katie Holmes, as his supportive wife, gets virtually nothing to do. Of the supporting cast, Daniel Brühl as the lone sympathetic Austrian character, probably comes off the best, although cameos by DOWNTON ABBYs Elizabeth McGovern and Jonathan Pryce are certainly welcome.
In the end, WOMAN IN GOLD tells a pretty damn intriguing story, and while its far from perfect its still an agreeable two hours. Its not going to win any awards or get any major critical kudos, but it should please the average moviegoer if not necessarily in theaters than at least further down the line when it hits VOD/streaming.