Ryan Reynolds and Helen Mirren in Woman in Gold. (Robert Viglasky / The Weinstein Company)
Royalty has been very good to Dame Helen Mirren. For roughly the past decade, she has received every major acting award for playing both Queen Elizabeths, from her Emmy-winning role in “Elizabeth I” to her Oscar-winning role as The Queen and her recent Tony-winning return to playing Elizabeth II in “The Audience.” This makes Mirren’s role in Woman in Gold so refreshing, as the beloved acting institution leaves the confines of Buckingham Palace to play Maria Altmann, an American emigre from Austria who attempts to reclaim ownership of a Gustav Klimt painting taken from her family by the Nazis.
Based on Altmann’s true story of her legal case against Austria to secure ownership of the Klimt painting, Woman in Gold may be directed by Simon Curtis, but it more importantly a Weinstein production, with all it entails. Like Philomena or Curtis’ previous effort My Week With Marilyn, this is a true story given a heartwarming treatment and, most importantly, offering talented actors room to shine. While the Weinstein brothers made their reputation through groundbreaking independent fare like Pulp Fiction and The Crying Game, they have settled into more conventional fare engineered to appeal to older audiences, particularly those who vote for the Oscars. With its true-life story of beating the odds to receive justice against the Nazis, Woman in Gold is perfectly engineered for Oscar recognition, and may earn Mirren another deserving nomination.
Mirren is the obvious draw here, but Ryan Reynolds and Daniel Brühl also do fine work. As a struggling lawyer and descendant of the famous Austrian composer Arnold Schoenberg, Reynolds gives a more boyish, sincere performance than usual, while Brühl is impressive as the Austrian journalist who serves as the film’s conscience. Tatiana Maslany of “Orphan Black” may have the most difficult role as the young Maria Altmann. Playing a dozen characters in one show is difficult, while attempting to channel the younger version of Mirren’s character might be an impossible challenge. Still, Maslany nearly pulls it off.
Woman in Gold may not reinvent filmmaking, but a story like this is best when told in a tried-and-true manner. All a film like this requires is to lay the foundation for an actress like Mirren to add to the list of her great performances.
Woman in Gold
The Weinstein Company
Now available on Blu-Ray, DVD and On Demand
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