Janet W., Here…
The Piano. Schindler’s List. I have seen films about the Holocaust and the invasion of countries by the Nazi regime. Along comes Woman in Gold a true story about one woman’s fight against Nazi-sympathizing Austria. Mrs. Maria Altmann (Helen Mirren) loses her sister and within her sister’s belongings finds a postcard of Gustav Klimt’s “Woman in Gold” painting. Shortly after this find, Austria announces their intent to restore stolen artwork to their rightful owners namely the Jewish families who were robbed by the Nazis when they invaded Austria. Randy (Ryan Reynolds) is a down on his luck attorney who failed at his solo practice.
Randy’s mother is a dear friend of Mrs. Altmann who volunteers her son’s services to help Mrs. Altmann regain her family’s heirlooms.I thought I had seen all aspects of the horrible tragedies of the Holocaust. However, Simon Curtis, the director, has revealed the emotional rape of the Jewish people, which stirred something anew within me. We have seen the murders, the beatings, the starvation and genocide of the Jewish people before, but not like this and not with such hope for victory. Not just surviving, but victory. Set in present day, Woman in Gold is more relatable to today’s audiences. The court case of Maria Altmann versus the Republic of Austria wins back some dignity for those Jewish Austrians that were betrayed by their countrymen.
Randy, once time is spent in his native Austria, begins to really feel the suffering and loss of his ancestors. For every oppressed people it can be understood how the true depth of feeling one has suffered is not truly felt until one is face to face with it; not just a memory or story passed down.I was shocked by the amount of emotional depth Ryan Reynolds showed in Woman in Gold. We are used to the slapstick comic relief action star that has been Reynolds’ staple. Woman in Gold is an example of the untapped potential Reynolds possesses to do drama. Although I thoroughly enjoy Reynolds’ ability to kick butt and look extremely good doing it, his dramatic side is quite moving. Sorry, Ladies, they kept his hot body under wraps and rightfully so to keep our focus on the story. Don’t get me wrong! He looks good in his suits and everyday wear, but no skin. A surprise was the role of his wife played by Katie Holmes. I have not seen Holmes and Mirren in the same film since Teaching Mrs. Tingle.
Holmes and Mirren did not interact in Woman in Gold as they did in Teaching Mrs. Tingle, but it was enjoyable to be reminded of the connection. I hope she will be able to rekindle her film presence because I have seen her potential and hope the best for her. Another delight was to see Jonathan Pryce as the chief justice of the Supreme Court. I assumed that he was impersonating Chief Justice Roberts considering the period of the film. However, they made the chief justice grey-haired, which does not fit Roberts’ likeness (at least not at this time).
Then I researched and realized Pryce played Roberts’ predecessor, former Chief Justice William Rehnquist and that the permission to sue Austria was granted in 2004. Well done. Anyway, that’s right Mr. Jumpin Jack Flash himself. As in his latest performances in the G.I. Joe film series, Pryce has not lost his sarcastic edge and effective comedic timing.The crown jewel, of course, is Helen Mirren, such of versatile actress. I first saw Mirren in White Nights as a prima ballerina helping Mikhail Baryshnikov and the late and great Gregory Hines escaped from Russia. Mirren has literally blown us away with guns, bombs, and rocket launchers as is evident in the film series Red as well as with her royal portrayal of the queen of England. I have yet to see a film with Mirren that I have not adored; whether she is playing a good guy or a bad guy. Action, comedy, drama, is there anything she cannot do? Wait, let’s see her in a sci-fi. I don’t think I’ve seen her in a sci-fi film yet. Come on, Helen, keep it coming.
Overall Woman in Gold is a fine film perhaps even Oscar worthy. The 40s costume design was quite brilliant, timeless jewelry. The seamless transitions from present day to past and back again are mesmerizing. Whether from a portrait that springs to life at the time of the shutter closing or the glance around the room bringing back passed joys, the effect did the job. In a way Woman in Gold reminded me of the emotional connectedness that Titanic presented. I knew the story of the sinking of the Titanic, but did not feel the suffering and fear until I saw the film. Woman in Gold was shot in a similar fashion. It is integral to the viewer’s experience to know that Woman in Gold is a true story and not a dramatic interpretation of fictional events. These horrendous invasions of the human spirit along with their family’s memories happened. Woman in Gold can easily be though of as a sort of David and Goliath battle between overbearing government and the hopes of the few. There is beauty untold in reclaiming one’s identity, one’s dignity, and one’s family treasure. Curtis Simon has showcased the beauty that is Woman in Gold, and I am grateful for the reminder.
4.5 out of 5 Stars
– Janet L white