Dueling stories. So back in World War II, the Nazis stole countless pieces of art from the countries they invaded. Based on a true story, this is about Jewish refugee Maria Altmann (Helen Mirren) going head to head with the Austrian government to reclaim a Gustav Klimt painting of her aunt. I knew very little about this film going in, only that it is about art and that my mom was excited about it. This led me to immediately assume that this is an “old people” movie, i.e. a film that has nothing overly exciting about it so as to avoid blood pressure spikes. For the first thirty minutes of this movie, that’s exactly what this is. I was not wowed from the opening of this to say the least.
I was also unimpressed with the poster. Somebody in that department is getting lazy. Seriously.
This took me a while to get on board with this, as it is such a slow build that I kind of wrote it off at the beginning. But I did come around eventually; there are two stories that are being told simultaneously, and the story from the past eventually hooked me into caring the story from the present. This isn’t the first WWII story about stolen art; just last year, we had The Monuments Men, which wasn’t wholly successful, either. While I think The Monuments Men is more earnest, Woman in Gold is ultimately a better made film. All of the scenes from the past are shot through this sepia filter that gives it a feel of its own, and all of the actual artwork is interesting to see, as Klimt was a very noteworthy artist. Altmann was apparently a pretty quirky lady; she has a lot of mother-like qualities (that mothers will likely relate to), and she is given a number of spunky things to say at the appropriate time. The baby-faced Ryan Reynolds was really my anchor for the current story, though, as he has such naturally flowing charm and charisma, it is impossible not to gravitate towards him, much like his other films.
There’s not much new ground covered in the filmmaking, but now I know the story behind the painting.
At face value, this may sound a lot like Philomena: these are both stories about a younger man and an older woman, teaming up to right a wrong from the past so as to unearth a mystery. It’s never that riveting, though, and it takes a very standard approach without ever really blowing you away. It took the entirety of the first act for me to finally get pulled in, but once it did, I did finally care about the outcome of the story. It’s a fidgety start, but in the end, Woman in Gold is movie that I can give a low recommendation to.
Woman in Gold (2015) ***1/2
– Critic for Hire