Movie Review: Woman In Gold

Jean-Paul’s Rating: 4/5 stars

Bottom Line: An interesting true story of one woman’s fight to get back a painting that was taken from her family.  It’s got Helen Mirren, so yea, good acting.  Even Ryan Reynolds is surprisingly good.

The recent 100 year anniversary of the Armenian genocide is a stark reminder of how difficult it is to get a government to admit past wrongdoings, let alone make amends for the worngdoings that would otherwise be easily fixable.  Nationalism has a lot to do with that.  It allows you to turn a blind eye to both.  Thus was Austria in the 1990’s.  Germany was forced to reconcile its wrongdoings after World War II, but Austria was able to claim it was a conquered nation, which is technically true except for the fact that the Nazis were welcomed with open arms by a good portion of the population.  This allowed Austria to blithely keep tons of treasures stolen from Jewish families that were exiled, escaped, or were murdered and claim ignorance of the fact.  “Woman in Gold” is the true story of one woman’s fight to force Austria to confront its demons and make right what it got so very wrong.

At the center of the story is a Gustav Klimt painting called “Portrait of Adele”, or for a short time because of the subject’s Jewishness “Woman in Gold”.  Yep, that’s right.  The Nazis changed the name of a painting because it portrayed a Jewish woman.  Sick fucks.  Maria Altman (Helen Mirren) is the daughter and rightful heir of both “Portrait of Adele” (who also happened to be Maria’s aunt) and other Klimt paintings and despite the obviousness of this fact, Austria continued to maintain ownership.  The movie is about her fight to get her possessions back.

The movie is very well acted (because Helen Mirren) and strikes a very good balance between uplifting and depressing.  Even Ryan Reynolds turns in a good performance as Maria’s unlikely lawyer, Randol Schoenberg.  It’s not quite the role you’d expect Reynolds to play so kudos to him for successfully branching out.  It was very interesting how they took what is really an incredibly boring and technical real life courtroom drama and just used the necessary bits and pieces of that drama to tell a wide-ranging and emotional true story.

I am a sucker for well told true history movies so obviously I would recommend this movie to just about anyone.  It tell a story that would normally fall through the cracks of history and tells it well.  States need to confront their past and make amends for their future.  If only we were capable of such.