Woman in Gold is based on the true story of Maria Altmann and Randol Schoenberg. Her Jewish family was victimized by the Nazis who stormed into Austria — at the invitation of the Austrian government and people — and took over. Decades later, Altmann demanded the Austrian government give her back a priceless portrait and other pieces of expensive art taken from her family.
Schoenberg helped her right the wrong.
Doing a right-on, and near-perfect, German accent, Helen Mirren plays Altmann. Ryan Reynolds is the at-first reluctant Schoenberg. The film travels two continents as the two, for over a decade, seek justice in Europe and then in the U.S. Woven through their story is the story of Altmann’s family and the tragedy that befell them as Adolph Hitler and his henchmen destroyed them and other Jewish families, and how the people of Vienna supported them.
Director Simon Curtis’ claim to fame is the Marilyn Monroe biopic, My Life with Marilyn, one of my favorites from 2011. It’s written by first-time writer Alexi Kaye Campbell. She’s not bad, and he’s a pretty good storyteller.
In spite of an awkward stop here and there, the film flows easily from A to B to C.
Like many of the best of her generation, Mirren could just look at the camera and get an award. She’s perfect, but Reynolds is not. This isn’t to say he’s bad. It’s just hard to take Reynolds — whose repertoire is packed with not so serious fare — seriously.
The director and writer are also not so sure about what to do with Reynolds, and supporting actor Daniel Bruhl ( Rush), who plays an Austrian journalist assisting in the effort, or with Katie Holmes, who plays Schoenberg’s wife, Pam.
But who cares? The movie clearly belongs to a pitch-perfect Mirren. Her work in this one — like its title — is pure gold.