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Woman in Gold - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
Woman in Gold
Directing: C
Acting: B-
Writing: C
Cinematography: B
Editing: B-

I'll give it this much: Woman in Gold provides just enough bland entertainment to satisfy watchers of basic cable with no particularly discerning taste.

Were it not for Helen Mirren, this movie would be garbage. Not the worst by any means -- it doesn't reek of anything overtly horrible -- but garbage nonetheless. Even with her, at best it's forgettable. But if you happen to be watching, Mirren manages to command attention even when everything around her is sloppy. This is a woman with talent that elevates the material. Just, in this case, not quite enough.

Her co-star is the biggest problem. Ryan Reynolds is not devoid of talent, but you wouldn't realize it by watching this movie. Here he plays a scrappy near-failure of a lawyer who goes on to defy expectations, except his entire depiction -- and performance -- is inept, from the direction by Simon Curtis (My Week with Marilyn) to costume design putting him in barely fitted suits and "lawyerly" glasses. Reynolds himself offers little range of emotion, spending too much time with his mouth slightly open and an oddly blank look in his eyes. He's supposed to be the underdog smart lawyer and yet he just looks like a lost puppy. He's got all the dramatic nuance of a supporting player in a college production.

And this is supposed to be the true story, of Maria Altmann (Mirren), niece of the subject of the painting now regarded as "the Mona Lisa of Austria", one of many pieces of artwork illegally seized by the Nazis and now hanging in national galleries. She hires Randol Schoenberg (Reynolds), the struggling lawyer son of a friend, to represent her in her quest to get the art back.

What follows is a largely legal story, set in court rooms, interspersed with flashbacks to Maria's childhood and young adult life during trips between Los Angeles and Vienna. (Nitpicky side note: this is supposed to be the late nineties, but several shots of the L.A. skyline include the L.A. Live Hotel and Condos, built in 2010. But admittedly I'm probably the only one who noticed or cares.) To say there is some transparent artistic license is an understatement, and the chase scene of a young Maria and her husband narrowly escaping the Nazis to get out of Austria for good is unnecessarily amped up for excitement.

To be sure, this is on its face a compelling story, especially considering the manner in which Randol manages to gain the legal upper hand, bringing the court battles to the U.S. and taking them all the way to the Supreme Court. (In these scenes, we are treated to Jonathan Pryce as one of the justices, offering some subtle yet oddly forced comic relief.) But the people who came together to tell this story on film are, on average, either lazy or inept or both. Dialogue is stilted, the storytelling lacks depth, and with the notable exception of Helen Mirren, most of the performances lack conviction. What actually happened is fascinating but Woman in Gold doesn't do the truth any justice.

woman in gold

Overall: C+
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