- on Friday, 03 April 2015 14:38
- by Frank Wilkins
One of the year’s oddest Hollywood pairings pits Ryan Reynolds opposite Helen Mirren in Woman in Gold, the remarkable true story of a woman’s journey to rescue her heritage and obtain justice for her family’s mistreatment in the years leading up to World War II. The subject of Nazi atrocities – both before and during the war – have been tackled many times in film, but the real attraction to Woman in Gold is seeing the size of the bite Reynolds takes out of his first real chance at a plumb role… against one of Hollywood’s best actresses.
Reynolds is Randy Schoenberg, a young upstart lawyer hired by Maria Altman (Mirren) to help her reclaim a priceless Gustav Klimt painting that was stolen from her family in Austria at the start of the second world war. The painting – titled Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer – is of Maria’s Aunt Adele and hung in their Austrian home where Maria lived as child with her extended family including a cousin, uncle and the Aunt after whom the painting is titled.
Unfortunately, Reynolds isn’t able to hold his own as director Simon Curtis (My Week With Marilyn) gives his young male lead almost equal screen time to Mirren, a dangerous move since the story is not only much less interesting when it’s about his lawyer character, but also because anyone pales when sharing the screen with Dame Mirren. But that’s not to say the picture is a failure. It isn’t. In fact, there’s enough intellectually stimulating subject matter and emotionally involving content from first-time screenwriter Alexi Kaye to make Woman in Gold a significant triumph in its depiction of what it takes to stand up against abuses of power.
Schoenberg and Maria make numerous trips to Vienna pleading their case which eventually leads them all the way to the heart of the Austrian establishment and the U.S. Supreme Court. Along the way, Maria gets a cathartic lesson in healing old wounds as she’s forced to face vivid memories of her life as a child growing up in Vienna, and Schoenberg discovers there’s more in the case than money.
Supporting roles from Katie Holmes, who plays Schoenberg’s wife, Daniel Bruhl as an eager-to-assist Viennese journalist, and Elizabeth McGovern as an Austrian arbitrator are mostly wasted as none are given very much to do. But Mirren is the single reason to see the film. She plays her headstrong feisty Maria with equal parts European sophistication and irreverent wit. She makes us realize the importance of family heritage and appreciate the personal objects passed on within families.
Curtis makes great use of flashbacks which seamlessly take us from 1930’s-era Vienna as we watch Maria fall in love before catching the last flight out of annexed Austria and the late 1990’s when the fight to reclaim her prized paintings began. A narrow escape from the advancing Nazis by the young Maria (Tatiana Maslany) and her new husband Fritz (Max Irons) through the back alleys and secret passages of Old Vienna brings a much-needed tinge of excitement and adventure to counter the sometimes tedious courtroom scenes.
Woman in Gold faces a significant struggle that becomes especially noticeable in the time of year after the Oscar winners have made their run but before the summer blockbusters ramp up. To be a smart hoity-toity intellectual think piece or a bit of classic Hollywood entertainment? Why not both? Woman in Gold makes for an exciting, funny, and enlightening time at the movies. Check it out for yourself.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some thematic elements and brief strong language.
Runtime: 109 mins
Director: Simon Curtis
Writer: Alexi Kaye
Cast: Helen Mirren, Ryan Reynolds, Daniel Brühl
Tagline: The fight for justice never ends
Memorable Movie Quote: "She was taken of the walls of our home by the Nazis."
Distributor: The Weinstein Company
Official Site: https://www.facebook.com/WomanInGoldMovie
Release Date: April 3, 2015
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: No details available.
Synopsis: Woman in Gold is the remarkable true story of one woman's journey to reclaim her heritage and seek justice for what happened to her family. Sixty years after she fled Vienna during World War II, an elderly Jewish woman, Maria Altmann, starts her journey to retrieve family possessions seized by the Nazis, among them Klimt's famous painting 'The Lady in Gold'. Together with her inexperienced but plucky young lawyer Randy Schoenberg, she embarks upon a major battle which takes them all the way to the heart of the Austrian establishment and the U.S. Supreme Court, and forces her to confront difficult truths about the past along the way.
No details available.