Tuesday, April 14, 2015

"Woman in Gold" Review - Written by Jim Herling

Woman in Gold is a movie that manages to glorify art and its inherent value while simultaneously telling two stories: one about how an old woman lost her family and her history and her struggle to reclaim them both; the other about how a young lawyer finds his heart and his passion through helping her. And the best part about it is that it's a true story.

Directed by Simon Curtis and written by Alexi Kaye Campbell, Woman in Gold is the story of a Jewish woman in her eighties, Maria Altmann (Helen Mirren, whose performance is absolutely sparkling as the mischievous, feisty senior in question), whose family lost everything to the Nazis in World War II, and her fight with the Austrian government over a painting. The painting in question is a work by Gustav Klimt, entitled Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I, who was Maria's aunt. The Nazis took the painting when they seized the Altmann home, and Austria wound up with it after the war. At Maria's side in her quest to regain her family's greatest treasure is a young lawyer named Randol Schoenberg (Ryan Reynolds, in his best performance in years), who at first is hesitant to help because he sees it as a waste of time, but is soon drawn in by Maria and her story, becoming just as passionate about recovering the painting as Maria.

I found the way the story was told to be flawed, as it spent too much time flashing back to the events that led up to Altmann fleeing her home and not enough time in the present exploring the nuances of her and Randol's struggle (although the flashbacks did give Tatiana Maslany a chance to shine as young Maria). The passage of time during the legal battle wasn't marked well for me either, with years passing by in unacknowledged blinks. But the acting performances are the heart of this movie. From the undeniable and surprising chemistry Mirren and Reynolds have to the strong supporting performances from the aforementioned Maslany, as well as Katie Holmes as Randol's wife Pam and Daniel Brühl as Hubertus Czernin, the crusaders' guide in modern Austria, right down to Charles Dance in his small role as Sherman, Randol's skeptical boss, every actor involved is fantastic.

Woman in Gold is a flawed movie that survives on impassioned and talented acting, and is with watching for that alone. I give it 3 out of 5 stars.

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