Eye For Film >> Movies >> Woman In Gold (2015) Film Review
Woman In Gold
Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode
In 1907, Austrian painter Gustav Klimt created his Portrait Of Adele Bloch-Bauer I, widely considered to be the greatest of his gold period works. In 1938, it was looted by the Nazis, and in 1941 it came to be hung in the Austrian State Gallery in Vienna's Belvedere Palace, where it quickly became the country's most celebrated painting. It would be another 59 years before Maria Altmann, Adele's niece and lat surviving relative, began a legal challenge, seeking to recover what to her was a very personal item. This is her story.
Who do you get to play a woman like Maria if Meryl Streep is busy? Helen Mirren has been playing more and more high profile real individuals recently, but the problem is that, despite the skill she showed with fictional characters in the past, she increasingly comes across simply as Helen Mirren. This highly mannered but essentially mediocre performance is distinguished only by her accent. Fortunately, Tatiana Maslany is on hand to bring some depth to the character as her younger incarnation. Ryan Reynolds is passable, if not exceptional, as Randy, the young lawyer who agrees to help her and gradually finds himself become obsessed by the case. Daniel Brühl is great as Hubertus Czernin, the journalist who takes her side, but he doesn't get enough to do.
The story is told in a leisurely way, only intermittently generating tension in relation to the legal case. The flashbacks to Nazi-occupied Austria are far stronger, but whilst they should be supporting and justifying the present day plot, more often they make that plot feel like a distraction. The set decoration and costuming are superb throughout, emphasising the destructiveness of war and the harsh life of refugees by depicting the riches of Maria's pre-war world. There are gold motifs throughout but they're neatly woven into the surrounding imagery, and never excessive. The care with which the film has been developed at a visual level is also evidenced by beautiful framing which directs the eye with great precision, helping us to observe present day Vienna as Maria observes it.
Elegantly put together and watchable throughout, but falling short of the potential offered by this fascinating case, Woman In Gold has the shiny appeal of Klimt's work but none of the depth. It's a passably entertaining film but, regrettably, a missed opportunity.Reviewed on: 12 Nov 2015