Friday, April 10, 2015

Woman in Gold

Director Simon Curtis' Woman in Gold is an odd film not good enough for awards consideration but also choosing not to become an action-suspense film about stolen Nazi art. Much more a straightforward drama, I'd compare it to 1998's A Civil Action, a more engaging film with a similar arc of a lawyer whose money-first philosophy is changed by taking on an emotional case he can't possibly win.

Based on the true story of Maria Altmann's (Helen Mirren) attempts to regain possession of her family's lost masterpiece from the Austrian government, Woman in Gold is a slow-moving drama starring Ryan Reynolds as the lawyer hired by Maria to take on a foreign government. Reynolds and Mirren work well together as the unlikely pair to take on Austria (even if Reynolds casting seems like an odd choice). Well-acted and shot against the backdrops of Vienna and southern California, the story is intriguing if never fully engaging. Despite its cast (which also includes Katie Holmes, Tatiana Maslany, Elizabeth McGovern, and Jonathan Pryce) Woman in Gold is a good film that never fully lives up to the promise it offers flashes of early on.

Along with the storyline of the court battles the film also delivers flashbacks of Maria's past which are shown mostly in black and white. In these sequences we get a cursory history lesson about Nazi collection of art from Jewish citizens during WWII. The flashbacks are mainly used to offer background to Maria's return to Austria suggesting hardships that the film spends most of its times skirting rather than delving fully into.

Despite its pace, and at times its Reader's Digest feel for its script, Woman in Gold is worth viewing for its two stars and their (mostly by-the-numbers) relationship. It's certainly not everything it could have been, nor does it make full use of the cast it has assembled, but it deals with its subject matter responsibly examining the historically significant legal decision that no one saw coming.

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