The subject of art restitution after the crimes of the Third Reich exploded in to the limelight thanks to the case of Maria Altmann in 1998, whose desire to reclaim some Klimt paintings, and in particular ‘Woman In Gold’, became quite a large news story, since it was a true David vs Goliath story of one woman and her lawyer against the Austrian government. It was only a matter of time before a film came out of the whole escapade, and at first glance a cast featuring the likes of Helen Mirren and a rejuvenated Ryan Reynolds meant that things definitely boded well.
The cast definitely does enhance the film, Mirren and Reynolds breathing life in to their respective characters while the likes of Daniel Bruehl and Charles Dance are welcome and worthwhile additions. This is definitely a film with its heart in the right place, juxtaposing its setting in 1998 with flashbacks to the Nazi occupation of Austria, detailing the family’s hardships and elaborating upon the way that the paintings were taken with emotional gusto, which is well handled by Mirren. It’s a story that’s well told and has plenty of emotional power behind it which ensures that it remains engaging throughout, but ultimately director Simon Curtis’ adaptation lacks that necessary substantial edge to elevate it beyond anything more than watchable, which is a shame considering the main performances, particularly that of Reynolds who shows off his acting talents once again after ‘The Voices’ proved that he does have some in him by giving his character, Randy Schoenberg, that level of steely resilience and determination that he needs.
In the end, while ‘Woman In Gold’ definitely has the star power and the material to be something that’s a little more hard-hitting and powerful than it ends up being, but sadly it doesn’t quite manage to live up to that potential. Sure, it’s still quite an emotional film and it definitely manages to get you on side with Mirren’s Altmann, but ultimately it’s played at a level that’s just a little too saccharine and safe to be anything more. It’s not a failure by any means, but you get the sense that it’s a missed opportunity that will fade in to the ether because it just isn’t memorable enough, as sweet as it is.
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