Projections - Movie Reviews
With Jim Sabatini

Woman in Gold

Woman in Gold
Helen Mirren, Ryan Reynolds and Daniel Bruhl

Rated: PG-13 for some thematic elements and brief strong language.
Reviewed by: Jim  
Release date: April 3, 2015 Released by: The Weinstein Company

The imperturbable, customarily elegant Helen Mirren (Monsters University, The Debt, Red 2, as well as Hitchcock) headlines this public-relations examination of a 1907 masterpiece from artist Gustav Klimt (of a portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I taken by the Nazis from the family manse in Vienna) where potential to delve into the issues of art restitution is frustratingly unplumbed.

Woman In Gold also stars Ryan Reynolds (The Voices, Turbo) and Daniel Bruhl (Rush) who figure in British/Greek playwright Alexi Kaye Campbell's script that go against Adele's personal wish that the painting stay put. But, Mirren's haunted octogenarian Maria Altmann (Adele's niece) doesn't like the shimmering work staying in Austria's Belvedere Gallery where she goes after the inheritance meant to be hers instead of hanging there as a national treasure.

A gritty zeal helps to form the dramatic arc with an odd-couple union with restoration lawyer (and family friend) Randy Schoenberg (grandson of Arnold who influenced Campbell's writing) played by Reynolds who'll (of course) become a better person by being retained by the grand dame to follow her wishes. So, the glowering woman at the Austrian art sovereignty, a Jewish expatriate with a lighter European accent after much time spent in the U.S., involves some extensive travel, like the more amusing and involving Judi Dench/Steve Coogan pairing in a more poignant, less manipulative "Philomena" from Stephen Frears (who directed Mirren to Oscar glory in The Queen).

An examination in crusading for justice is emphasized by the appearance of a headstrong journalist (Bruhl), but this wistful, pedestrian Woman may reach its emotional pinnacle from the pretty taut staging of the flashbacks in the Nazi-occupied era. That's where Tatiana Maslany and Allan Corduner make affecting appearances during a jolting scene in Vienna and a bittersweet farewell. Director Simon Curtis (who did better in the 1960s with "My Week With Marilyn") does his best work in the midsection while ineffectual around it, especially as Reynolds is hardly an ideal fit for Schoenberg.

Essentially, no hard decisions are made up to and including the pat conclusion though many will like Mirren's unwavering widow, but no controversy really brews as Schoenberg emerges as a "torch bearer". The gallery legalese want Maria to reconsider what will become a huge monetary windfall, yet no tension provides any payoff surrounding these icy indulgers for a lasting heritage.

  Frank Chris Jim Dave Nina Dayra Howard Jennifer Kathleen  Avg. 
Woman in Gold  B      C                     B- 

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