Possible spoilers ahead!
“Woman in Gold” is directed by Simon Curtis (“My Week With Marilyn”), and stars Helen Mirren, in one of her best roles, as Maria Altmann. As the film unfolds we learn that this shrewd yet cultured octogenarian, is Holocaust survivor, and that after 60 years, she wants something back that was snatched from her family’s stately Vienna apartment during the Nazi annexation of Austria. And the masterpiece she wants returned is none other than Gustav Klimt’s iconic painting of her aunt, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I.
It all starts one day when Maria finds letters among her late sister’s effects that mention the family paintings. For some advice she calls upon J. Randol Schoenberg (Ryan Reynolds), a friend’s struggling lawyer son and grandson of famed Austrian composer Arnold Schoenberg who is deep in debt, has a wife and infant to support and is just starting a new job.
Ryan Reynolds might seem a strange choice for this type of movie. Heck. he seems like an odd choice to share screen time with Dame Helen. But you know what? This duo works. They have great chemistry in a mom-son kind of way. This is something that’s played with very effectively for some laughs along the way.
They push each other throughout the film, creating some of the movie’s best moments. He’s even able to ger her to break her vow of never returning to Austria. For him, it’s about what the painting is worth, at least at first it is. While for her, it’s less about the money and more about righting a grievously overlooked wrong. Little did they know their journey would also ignite a true friendship between them.
As for the supporting cast, they’re all wonderful. Even Katie Holmes was good, granted in a small role. There’s also Daniel Bruhl who is perfectly cast as Hubertus Czernin. Here he plays a young Austrian reporter who wants to help all those Austrians who lost so much during the war.
I gotta say though sfter his breakout performance in 2013’s “Rush,” Daniel Bruhl should be more than a supporting player. Perhaps his upcoming role in “Captain America: Civil War” will fix that.
Aside from Helen Mirren’s incredible performance, my other favorite performance in the movie came from Tatiana Maslany. She plays the role of a young Maria in the film’s flashbacks scenes. She did a terrific job. Even her mannerisms were very Helen Mirren like. Although what I remember the most is my wifey shouting “That’s Orphan Black!”
For whatever reason, “Woman in Gold” is getting shredded by critics all over the place. Perhaps because in their little minds they’re comparing this movie to Helen Mirren’s “The Queen”? Could be, but the comparison doesn’t make sense. My take is that many of those same critics hated last year’s “The Monuments Men” and in their little minds they’re putting “Woman in Gold” in the same clubhouse. Well, I say screw those critics because they’re missing the point of this movie.
The truth is I loved “Woman in Gold.” This movie introduced me to a piece of World War II history I didn’t even know existed. Since seeing the movie, I’ve learned more and more about Klimt’s famed painting and the real life Maria Altmann and J. Randol Schoenberg. Their story is incredible, and while I’m sure the movie dramatized several things, it was a wonderful movie nonetheless.
“Woman in Gold” final score: 8.5