The story of Maria Altman, an Austrian expatriate who was forced to flee Austria during the Nazi reign, and her later crusade to get back the artwork the Nazis had stolen from her family—the most important piece, a portrait of Altman’s aunt, Klimt’s Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I, the titular Woman in Gold.
With flashback of the 1940’s Austria and all too familiar and horrifying acts of the time (though I regret probably not familiar enough to most people). As she fled, the Nazis stole all the artwork her family had collected and it remained on the walls of museums that had collaborated with the fascists even after the fall of the Third Reich. What’s worse is even though according to basic documentation, the museum had no right to the paintings, they hid documents, they lied and they tried to keep the painting by any unethical (and certainly anti-Semitic) means necessary. So Maria Altman and her somewhat inexperienced lawyer Randol Schoenberg file in US courts when they’re denied access to the Austrian courts. The Austrians attempt to deny they have the right to sue and the case even goes to the Supreme Court where while the dialogue in the movie is not from court transcripts, it does convey the clear contempt the Court and Rehnquist in particular clearly had for the Austrian government’s position ( Read the transcript, the court clearly thought the Austrians were full of it). As this is based on true events I’m not too concerned with spoilers, when I say that the movie is emotionally cathartic as it shows that justice is served and the paintings returned to Altman as their rightful owner.
Regrettably some of the directing and editing felt a little like a really good TV movie more than an actual film, and I’ll be honest I can’t put my finger on why. The cinematography is good, the acting as I’ll get to is top notch, certainly the story is moving, something just didn’t work. Given that the director mainly only has TV work on his resume I think this was partly to blame.
That said, Helen Mirren gives her usual exemplary performance, not exactly a shocker there. However, this film is probably one of the best, if not the best, showing by Ryan Reynolds as an actor to date. Ryan Reynolds is actually an actor in this film, with a wide and believable range of emotion and subtle character development. Especially given that he’s about to do another superhero movie, it was probably a solid career move to establish that he can act before doing a third big budget superhero movie and get type cast out of future jobs. Jonathan Pryce as Chief Justice Rehnquist also gives a wonderfully delightful performance (this man is honestly one of the most under appreciated actors in Hollywood, a man who seems to make even the smallest roles the center of attention).
Still, for whatever flaws of the direction do exist, as with most stories related to the Holocaust the power of the theme lets you gloss over the small flaws of the work and be moved by the story and theme.
A solid 3.75 out of 5