Woman in Gold
I’ve never really thought about it much, as a lot of people who visit art museums, but maybe I should consider the history of art a bit more. It’s not that I want to know how something was painted or who it was by (the museum description usually takes care of that), but just with how it made it’s way on this particular wall. Sometimes they’ll make it clear that it was a donation, purchase or that it might be on tour, but let’s say you find out that a beautiful renaissance painting was stolen from someone years ago. Something that would make me question not just the value of the work, but with the practices and standards of the museum that collected it.
A story like Woman in Gold relies an interesting tale of getting back not just any art, but a piece of work that’s so valuable that no one would want it to leave their country. This may be a story about art, but it’s also another story about the travesty of the actions of the Nazis and how their actions are still being foxed in today’s time. In that case, Woman in Gold may be more important then we may realize.
An elderly Maria Altmann (played by Helen Mirren) is living in Los Angeles when her past comes back in the form of some letters written by her recently deceased sister. Her sister tried to make a case to get back some artwork that was taken from the Nazis during their rise in Germany. Through flashbacks, we find that Maria came from a wealthy Austrian Jewish family that had lost most of their property during the persecution, and that while Maria and her husband were able to escape, her parents were unfortunate victims and dies in a Death Camp.
Through a friend, she hires Randol Schoenberg (played by Ryan Reynolds), a lawyer who has no experience within the law of art, to help her get back her families most loved portrait, “Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I”. The big problem though is that the country of Austria regards this as one their “Mona Lisa” and will do anything to make sure that they don’t lose it. Maria and Randol fly to Vienna and after meeting with a reporter Hubertus Czernin (played by Daniel Brühl), they begin their big case to retrieve back what’s rightfully theirs.
With it’s focus on a WWII story and that our hero of the movie is elderly, it’s obvious that it’s target audience is not the same as one that’s going to watch a summer blockbuster. So rather then to put any large stars in here, Woman in Gold only cast a few well knowns and embraces it’s more play-like feel then something cinematic. What I mean is that the dialogue is heavy and requires you to pay a lot of interest in art history. In the case of myself, I liked it as I do follow the world of art; maybe not as much as the movies, but I found the subject matter fascinating enough that it made me want to know more about this old lady and her wanting her families property back.
Helen Mirren is great as Maria, giving us a no nonsense but likable personality that I may have seen before, but Mirren always gives good performances. As much as I rant on Ryan Reynolds, he’s better suited here then he was for roles in Green Lantern and Turbo, being able to play a more quiet and reserved guy then he can cocky. Woman in Gold may not be two hours, but it does feel a little long when we get that cliché of one leaving the party even though we know their going to come back and face their fears. Had this been rewritten into something more out of the box, this would have been an academy award movie that should have been saved for the end of the year. But even had it been shorter, nothing in The Woman in Gold really says “revolutionary”, but it is likable enough to enjoy as a story.
I’ll give this four portraits of Adele Bloch-Bauer I out of five. Most history fans should like this as those that are into art. I doubt I would see it again on home video, but then again, maybe I’ll give it another rental