UK Release Date: 10th April 2015
Runtime: 109 minutes
Director: Simon Curtis
Writer: Alexi Kaye Campbell
Starring: Helen Mirren, Ryan Reynolds, Daniel Brühl, Katie Holmes, Tatiana Maslany, Max Irons, Charles Dance
Synopsis: An Austrian woman hires a lawyer in an attempt to win back a family portrait that was stolen from her home by the Nazis during World War Two.
Last year, sweet odd couple dramedy Philomena managed to make its way into awards contention. It married an ageing romantic with a younger cynic as they battled to right a historical wrong. Much the same formula is employed, to equally comfortable effect, in historical drama Woman in Gold.
Maria Altmann (Helen Mirren) decides at her sister’s funeral that she wants to petition the Austrian government to return to her a painting of her aunt, which was stolen by the Nazis. The painting has since become a major part of Austrian culture, which makes it difficult for young lawyer Randy (Ryan Reynolds) and journalist Hubertus (Daniel Brühl) to convince the government to let it go.
On the face of it, Woman in Gold seems like a simple ploy to cash in on the success of Philomena by simply substituting beloved British institution Judi Dench for beloved British institution Helen Mirren. However, this emerges as a witty, heart-warming film that tells a worthy story in its own right.
| "They’re going to put as many obstacles in your way as possible."
Mirren – ropey Austrian accent aside – is excellent as Maria. She’s a woman who has decided not to take any more after accepting her lot in life for years. Mirren is inspiring and defiant, bringing the film much needed levity alongside serious emotional heft. This backstory is primarily delivered in a series of flashbacks that are important and intriguing, if a little overlong at times.
Following his revelatory performance in The Voices, Ryan Reynolds is a worthy screen partner for Mirren. He is quietly becoming one of the more reliable workers in Hollywood and delivers a performance of great vulnerability here, running the gamut from reluctance to fiery, passionate pursuit of what’s right. There are scenes in which Reynolds outshines his co-star, which really says something given Mirren’s sizeable trophy case.
For all of its performance strength, Woman in Gold suffers from an over-reliance on its flashbacks and a series of courtroom scenes that eventually seem to melt together. It’s a procedural courtroom drama masquerading as something with a lot more emotional pull, which is an act it sometimes pulls off, but is really noticeable when cracks start to show.
| "This is like a James Bond film. And you’re Sean Connery."
This is a film, though, that works on the strength of its performances rather than its plotting. Mirren and Reynolds make for an engaging double act, with Daniel Brühl and Katie Holmes making the most of their brief appearances. Woman in Gold is flawed on a number of levels, but there’s certainly some precious metal glinting at the heart of it.
Pop or Poop?
It’s not an overly original piece of work and it has issues with formulaic writing, but Woman in Gold has real heart and tempers it with a rich supply of wit.
The central duo – Reynolds and Mirren – have oodles of chemistry and their tender performances will leave any audience rooting for their cause.
Supporting players are slightly underused and the flashbacks run a little long, but there’s definitely enough here to bring a tear to cynical eyes.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.