WOMAN IN GOLD
By Gary Murray
Starring Helen Mirren, Ryan Reynolds and Katie Holmes
Written by Alexi Kaye Campbell
Directed by Simon Curtis
Running time 110 min
MPAA Rating PG-13
Selig Film Rating FULL PRICE
Just when one thinks that all the stories about WWII have been told, yet another one comes along. The epic struggle against fascism touched the lives of just about every person on the planet and brought the world to war. It has also generated some of our greatest works of cinema. Some of the best films of 2014 were about this conflict and one of the best of 2015 has come along. It is Woman in Gold.
Helen Mirren plays Maria Altmann, a woman on a quest. She approaches lawyer Randol (Ryan Reynolds) to help her with a legal matter. In the days before WWII, Maria’s family had a portrait of her aunt Adele painted by a local artist, Klimt. The artist and the work of art have become one of the most famous Austrian paintings Woman in Gold. It is considered a national treasure.
Maria wants her family painting back, a canvas that was taken by the Nazis. The film bounces back from before the war to modern times with Maria remembering her family’s plight under the 3rd Reich. We see the humiliation of the Jews by the Austrian people and the welcoming of the Germans by the Austrians. There is a manic glee in taking down the Jews, forcing them to write “Jew” on their businesses and taking their belongings.
Maria has to travel back to Austria in order to state her claim. She has not been back since she escaped the Nazis. She finds that people have not changed over the years and there is still a lingering hatred of Jews. Even though they make a compelling case to the government, they are eventually shot down. Austria is not going to let go of Woman in Gold without a major fight.
Eventually Randol comes up with a brilliant legal plan to sue in an American court. Ultimately, the case goes all the way to the Supreme Court, where our small-time lawyer has to argue his case with some of the country’s best legal minds.
Randol begins to confront what happened to his grandparents all those years ago. Many Jews do not want to consider what happened to their families so many decades ago. They have moved on and forgotten. Eventually, this pains the young lawyer.
The film builds to a conclusion that everyone knows about. It was one of the biggest news stories of a few decades ago. It is not the verdict but the path to getting there that makes the story of Woman in Gold such a joy.
The film is directed by Simon Curtis the man behind My Week with Marilyn. This new work is much more accessible film. Simon takes the path of least resistance and tells his story with simple camera shots which gives the film a dramatic and classic feel. His ace in the hole is his stellar cast and he just lets them do their job.
This is another game changing role for Ryan Reynolds. He is a decent actor who delivers great performances in films no one sees and mediocre work in major films. This is another small independent project that will be seen by many but should be seen by all. We believe his soul-searching journey to his lost family roots.
It is great to see Katie Holmes in the role of Pam, the wife of Randol. She is a charming actress who works seldom in Hollywood. Her performance is small and supporting but it is still delightful.
But, this film is yet another showcase for Helen Mirren. Once again, she delivers. There are equal parts of heartbreak and fear in her role. At times she is the frightened young woman haunted by demons from her ancient past while other moments are of a light-hearted little girl living in Vienna. There is this spunk in the role and her perfect delivery makes the film a must-see event.
There has been a lot of hatred of this film by many on-line. One must assume that it is because the film is sympatric toward the Jews. Lately, there is a lot of hatred of the Jewish people and for the life of me, I cannot understand why. The world would be a much better place if we would all just live and let live.