The fascinating true story of an elderly woman’s quest to retrieve artworks looted from her wealthy Jewish family by the Nazis gets turned by the glossy Woman in Gold into an uneven mix of historical thriller, courtroom drama and odd-couple comedy.
Helen Mirren turns on the cranky charm as the Viennese-born Maria Altmann, but Ryan Reynolds is disappointingly bland as her American lawyer and the script isn’t sharp enough to give their rapport the heart and humour that made Judi Dench and Steve Coogan’s pairing in Philomena so engaging.
Mirren and Reynolds’ mismatched-duo double act makes up half the film, as earnest young lawyer Randy Schoenberg (the grandson of composer of Arnold Schoenberg, as it happens) takes up Los Angeles resident Maria’s cause in the late 1990s, travelling with her to Vienna but meeting intransigence from the Austrian authorities at every turn when they try to reclaim her family’s lost art, including the painting of the title, Gustav Klimt’s dazzling 1907 portrait of her aunt, Adele Bloch-Bauer.
The visit stirs Maria’s memories of her life in the city before she fled Austria as a young woman (played by Tatiana Maslany), and these flashback scenes – leading up to her hair’s breadth escape from the Nazis as a rising tide of anti-Semitism engulfs the country – prove far more gripping and engrossing than the film’s lacklustre latter-day episodes.
Certificate 12. Runtime 109 mins. Director Simon Curtis.
Woman in Gold is released on Blu-ray & DVD by Entertainment in Video.