Painting of a woman in gold? $500 million. Ryan Reynolds lawyer bill? $20,000. Justice? Priceless.
Woman in Gold tells the true story of a Holocaust survivor who wants to rescue a painting of her aunt from the Austrian government. Is it a work of art or amateurish grafitti? Well, let’s take a look at the trailer and find out.
So who stars in this movie? Helen Mirren plays Maria Altmann; her other films include The Hundred-Foot Journey, The Queen, and Hitchcock. Ryan Reynolds of The Proposal and Green Lantern plays her lawyer, Randol Schoenberg. Other stars include Daniel Brühl of Rush, Katie Holmes of Batman Begins, and Charles Dance of The Imitation Game.
The director is Simon Curtis (not to be confused with the singer of the same name), director of My Week with Marilyn and the television miniseries Cranford. While I haven’t seen his work, it seems from a cursory glance to be quality stuff, so we’ll have to see what he brings to this film.
The trailer opens with Maria asking her friend about her lawyer son, since she needs some legal advice from someone she can trust. She needs to know how fast she can drive and not get in trouble with the police. Randol tells her he’s busy with lawyer work, but Maria interrupts their conversation to rip his glasses off his face and clean them. ADD much, Maria?
Maria tells Randol about a painting of her aunt, the titular Woman in Gold, that was stolen by the Nazis. Now it’s hanging in a gallery in Vienna, and Randol guesses she wants it back. “Wouldn’t that be lovely,” says Maria. Too bad it’ll never happen. Now let’s get to the real reason I called you here. “And then there’s justice,” she adds. If Batman and Superman turn up in this movie, it’s going to get loads better.
Charles Dance tries to dissuade Randol from his quest, asking, “Do you really think a painting that ends up as a fridge magnet will ever leave Austria?” Have you seen the size of their refrigerators? Randol, his wife, and Maria head to Austria, and Maria complains that Katie Holmes isn’t driving fast enough. “We’re going to be there four hours early,” Randol tells her. “But I want to buy perfume and cognac in duty-free,” Maria complains. And I need to check up on my drug-smuggling ring as well.
They drop by Maria’s old home, and she tells them about her wedding night: “Half of Vienna was here.” Weird; most people like a little more privacy on their wedding night. But Daniel Brühl comes to tell them that Austria is hard at work solving a problem like Maria. Despite legal opposition, Randol tries to track down the aunt’s will, with Maria working right beside him. “This is like a James Bond film,” she says, “and you’re Sean Connery.” We’re like Kevin Bacon!
Randol claims Woman in Gold belongs to Maria’s family, but Brühl calls it “the Mona Lisa of Austria.” So your painting contains secrets that could bring down the Catholic Church? Maria lists off the Nazis’ crimes against her and adds, “I won’t let them humiliate me again.” You realize Austrians haven’t been Nazis since 1945, right? These aren’t the same people; these are good people who are fighting for something they really believe is theirs. This isn’t about humiliation unless you make it so.
Randol decides to take the Austrian government to court (and probably also takes on a case to prove a random elderly man is Santa Claus). “There’s no way you’re going to win,” another lawyer tells them. “We didn’t come here to eat cake,” says Maria. Was that a Marie Antoinette reference? Because aside from the lady being Austrian, that remark comes out of nowhere. Why cake-eating specifically? Why not golfing or sightseeing or reenacting scenes from The Sound of Music?
“All along you have thwarted me and closed the doors in my face,” Maria tells a government official. Don’t you know you’re supposed to open doors for a lady? “This is a moment in history,” Randol tells the court. As opposed to a moment outside our known timeline? Every moment takes place in history, dude. “Once the past has been put to right, we will not have come here in vain,” says Maria. And once we’ve bought as much cognac and perfume in duty-free as is legally possible.
Maria compares Austria’s view of the painting as a national treasure (why didn’t she just call Nicolas Cage in to steal it?) and her own view of it as a memory of her very human aunt. “We should be reunited with what is rightfully ours,” says Maria. And technically, the painting belongs both to her and to Austria. So here’s an idea: why doesn’t the gallery hire her and house her nearby? Maria gets to be close to her aunt and is set for life financially, visitors to the museum can find out all about the painting’s backstory from someone who lived it, and Austria gets to keep a piece of its heritage? Problem solved! And the trailer ends with Maria complaining that Randol is driving so slowly, his donut frosting is melting. So give it to him so he can eat it; don’t use it as a measure of driving speed!
So based on the trailer, do I recommend this movie? Kind of. The actors are all top notch when given good material to work with, and it’s good to remember human atrocities and the people who suffered but ultimately came out on top. That said, I question some of the logical arguments this movie seems to pose; I can see Austria’s side pretty well, despite a clear attempt to make them out to be the bad guys. Also, the trailer felt a bit scattered, like a collection of scenes rather than a cohesive piece of marketing. These problems may be only in the trailer, but I can’t help but wonder if they’re reflections of the movie itself (most of the time, a trailer usually is). It’s a predictable story, but if you like that story, check Woman in Gold out. Personally, I’ll be skipping this one.
After all, the last thing I need is Helen Mirren telling my I don’t drive fast enough.
Woman in Gold is owned by BBC Films.