Woman in Gold

Woman in Gold

2015, PG-13, 109 min. Directed by Simon Curtis. Starring Helen Mirren, Ryan Reynolds, Daniel Brühl, Katie Holmes, Tatiana Maslany, Max Irons, Charles Dance, Antje Traue, Elizabeth McGovern, Jonathan Pryce, Frances Fisher, Moritz Bleibtreu.

REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., April 10, 2015

Take a complex legal issue like the provenance of an art object, then throw in Helen Mirren and the Nazis as the hero and villains, and you have the dull and simplified tale of Woman in Gold.

Gustav Klimt’s spectacular painting Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I far outshines this pedestrian movie about the legal battle waged by Maria Altmann (Mirren), the niece of the portrait’s subject, to regain possession of the work which was seized from her family by the Nazis during their takeover of Austria. Based on true events, the film recounts the process by which Altmann, long since relocated to California, and her inexperienced lawyer Randy Schoenberg (Reynolds), grandson of the famous Austrian composer, fought in the Austrian and American courts to win back that painting, along with five other Klimts. With history having already foretold the case’s conclusion, Woman in Gold draws its narrative tension from Altmann’s flashbacks to her gilded childhood and flight from the Nazi horrors.

Mirren’s performance, as always, is beyond reproach, even though the character’s hauteur makes her a somewhat disagreeable person. Reynolds, however, as the young lawyer in over his head seems reflective of the actor’s lack of dimension in the movie. Many good supporting actors (Holmes, Pryce, and Fischer, for starters) appear fleetingly; however, more interplay from them might have helped make Woman in Gold a more human story than that of evil Nazi looters and Austrian bureaucrats versus good Jewish patrons of the arts and vindicators of family heritage. The story of the provenance of the stunning Klimt painting embedded in gold leaf, which the Austrians’ came to regard as their country’s Mona Lisa, is more complicated than this screenplay by Alexi Kaye Campbell will allow. Nevertheless, the flattening of the legal issues is not what sunders Woman in Gold, it’s the story’s wan drama and fixed characterizations.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 36 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Simon Curtis Films
Goodbye Christopher Robin
The story of A.A. Milne and Winnie-the-Pooh

Marc Savlov, Oct. 27, 2017

My Week With Marilyn
Based on the memories of Colin Clark, this movie recounts his time getting to know Marilyn Monroe while she was in England shooting The Prince and the Showgirl with Laurence Olivier.

Marjorie Baumgarten, Nov. 25, 2011

More by Marjorie Baumgarten
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
The Coen brothers head West, but it's a bumpy ride

Nov. 16, 2018

Widows
Viola Davis leads an efficient heist that rarely blows the doors off

Nov. 16, 2018

KEYWORDS FOR THIS FILM

Woman in Gold, Simon Curtis, Helen Mirren, Ryan Reynolds, Daniel Brühl, Katie Holmes, Tatiana Maslany, Max Irons, Charles Dance, Antje Traue, Elizabeth McGovern, Jonathan Pryce, Frances Fisher, Moritz Bleibtreu

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle