It’s a pretty common trope for movies to ask ‘how far would you go’, but it’s not all that frequent that I’m faced with a movie that asks how far I would go for a painting. The Woman in Gold is a fascinating, if a little unambitious and conventional, film that tackles the true story of Maria Altmann (Helen Mirren) and Randol Schoenberg’s (Ryan Reynolds) legal battle against the country of Austria to reclaim the art stolen from her family by the Nazis.
Early scenes in the movie feel a little slow but once the proceedings move to Austria, things pick up appropriately. The cinematography here is expectedly lavish – and this is even more the case when it comes to the flashback sequences. Tatiana Maslany absolutely kills it as a younger Maria Altmann, but she’s far from the only standout bit of casting for smaller roles in the film. Daniel Brühl has a great turn as an Austrian journalist who takes up Maria’s cause and Charles Dance makes a fun appearance as a lawyer.
The courtroom scenes that dominate the second half of the movie are strong, but where the first half of the movie occasionally feels glacial in its pacing, these scenes almost feel a little rushed. As a consequence, it doesn’t really capitalize as much as it could on the source material.The Woman in Gold could very easily be a movie that has the audience exclaiming ‘well, there’s no way they can pull this off’, but instead settles for the less-exciting ‘well, let’s see how they pull this off’.
Though I quite enjoyed the ideas the film grapples with about how we construct our histories and form relationships with art, this aspect of the film felt a little overshadowed by the written-by-the-victors vibe that permeates the whole affair. Paradoxically, it often condemns the lawyers on the side of the Belvedere but it never really digs into why that particular painting is so allegedly important to Austria’s national psyche.
I quite enjoyed The Woman in Gold, in spite of the film not going as far as I’d like to have seen it go. There are some minor pacing issues that sometimes rob the film of dramatic energy but strong casting and some gorgeous production values allow it to shine nonetheless.
Film Review Score: THREE AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Woman in Gold’s special feature offerings are quite nice. There’s a full commentary track for the movie with director Simon Curtis and producer David M. Thompson. Additionally, there’s also a cool ‘making of’ featurette that gives some cool insight into the historical context to the movie and the real life counterparts Mirren and Reynolds portray.
Special Features Review Score: THREE AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Woman in Gold is available on DVD and Blu-Ray on October 7th.