Woman in Gold is a predictable, competent World War II era picture that despite the depth of the subject matter lays flat. Helen Mirren plays Maria Altmann, an elderly Jewish woman on a quest to reclaim her Nazi seized family possessions, specifically a series of Gustav Klimt paintings. The primary painting that she longs to reconnect with is a portrait of her Aunt, Adele Bloch-Bauer I. The painting is considered a treasure of Austria and has been renamed, Woman in Gold. Altmann encourages a young lawyer, Randy Schoenberg (Ryan Reynolds) to look into the matter and for the next several years they fight their way through courts and governments to regain rights to the paintings.
Both Altmann and Schoenberg are written as threadbare stereotypes. She is an uptight older woman who thrives on constancy and structure. He is a well-meaning, hard-working family man who is supposed to be read as an “every man.” The problem with this is that Mirren’s elegance supersedes the language that of her scripted lines. “I have to keep these memories alive,” and “I would rather die then go back there,” are more sound-byte than dialog. Reynolds
What saves this squeaky clean film are the flashback scenes. With lush settings and costumes the former life of Maria Altmann and her family are captivating. We as viewers understand the strange and deep beauty of her aunt which inspired Klimt to create one of his most recognizable portraits. These scenes show depths of love, joy, concern and despair unlike any other section of the movie. The other saving grace of the film is the beautifully rendered score by Hans Zimmer. It also flourishes in the flashback segments of the film.
This is a satisfyingly adequate film about one tiny segment of the Jewish population during World War II. For viewers specifically interested in Klimt, Mirren or the Austrian experience it may be worth a viewing. The error would be made if one goes into the film expecting to be shaken to the core. It’s just not that kind of war movie.
My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Director: Simon Curtis
Writers: Alexi Kaye Campbell, E. Randol Schoenberg
Stars: Helen Mirren, Ryan Reynolds, Daniel Brühl
Running Time: 110 mins
MPAA Rating: PG-13