Woman in Gold

 

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A 24-carat predicament is handled with finesse by Simon Curtis and his leading lady, Dame Helen Mirren.

   
Woman in Gold
 

It is an incredible story. An elderly shopkeeper living in Los Angeles decides to reclaim what is rightfully hers. Teaming up with a legal novice, she takes the Austrian government to court. What Maria Altmann wants back is a painting that used to hang in her family’s Viennese home, a portrait of her aunt Adele. The painting, along with many other treasures – including a diamond necklace given to her by her mother – were unceremoniously ‘confiscated’ by the Nazis, a year prior to the outbreak of WWII. However, after the war, the painting ended up in the Belvedere museum in Vienna. The fact that the work of art was Gustav Klimt’s ‘Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I’ and considered to be “the ‘Mona Lisa’ of Austria” – not to mention its value of more than $100 million – hardly made the task of its retrieval any the easier for Maria and her legal accomplice E. Randol Schoenberg. To make the narrative even meatier is the fact that Randol happens to be the grandson of the great Austrian composer Arnold Schoenberg...

 

Under the guidance of Simon Curtis, the director of the surprisingly moving and funny My Week with Marilyn, the story is in safe hands. Once again he is blessed by a strong central performance from his female star, in this case Helen Mirren, who is nicely matched by Ryan Reynolds as the vaguely klutzy but principled lawyer Randol. The film, shot in Vienna, Los Angeles and at Twickenham Studios, is also a visual pleasure, with the flashbacks to the Nazi occupation refreshingly filmed in German (this is no Suite Française, thank Heavens). There is also plenty of humour, which Dame Helen sharpens with skilful aplomb, while the flashbacks are handled with a good degree of suspense. But it’s the story itself that carries all before it, garnished with a number of unexpected pirouettes.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast:  Helen Mirren, Ryan Reynolds, Daniel Brühl, Katie Holmes, Tatiana Maslany, Max Irons, Charles Dance, Elizabeth McGovern, Jonathan Pryce, Moritz Bleibtreu, Antje Traue, Frances Fisher, Tom Schilling, Anthony Howell, Allan Corduner, Henry Goodman, Stephen Greif.

 

Dir Simon Curtis, Pro David M. Thompson and Kris Thykier, Screenplay Alexi Kaye Campbell, Ph Ross Emery, Pro Des Jim Clay, Ed Peter Lambert, Music Martin Phipps and Hans Zimmer, Costumes Beatrix Pasztor.

 

BBC Films/Origin Pictures-Entertainment Film Distributors.

108 mins. UK. 2015. Rel: 10 April 2015. Cert. 12A.