Woman in Gold

Director: Simon Curtis

Starring: Helen Mirren, Ryan Reynolds, Daniel Bruhl, Katie Holmes, Tatiana Maslany, Max Irons, Charles Dance

Rated: PG-13 (some thematic elements and brief strong language)

Maria Altmann, an octogenarian Jewish refugee, takes on the Austrian government to recover artwork she believes rightfully belongs to her family.

 

Woman in Gold

By Matt Greene

Woman in Gold is not a “bad” film, but it’s much too safe to be remarkable or memorable. Depending on your mood and expectations, you could be either bored or charmed by its calm nature, and either option would be accurate. The quiet sentimentalism gently and even pleasantly washes over you. In the end, though, its complete lack of challenge or surprise to its audience is yawn-inducing. Emotionally tidy and cinematically underwhelming, WiG is sorely lacking impact and color.

This genericism stems from the setup: an overly-curious whipper-snapper (Reynolds) helps a fiery older woman (Mirren) correct the past. It’s been done. However, with Mirren leading the show, grace and class always co-mingles with spirit and sharpness. Even Reynolds, whose forced facial expressions and line deliveries often negatively affect his performances, is refreshingly nondescript. Their characters, however, are complex-less, with arcs that feel more forced than fleshed out. More comic-relief and less overly serious pondering would help, but with the self-righteous score and incessant flashbacks, the core narrative is slowed to an expositional bore.

The true story of these two misfits taking on the Austrian government is anything but lifeless. The incredible legal proceedings are interesting and fun, and it isn’t hard to get roused up by the inherent injustice of the atrocities of WWII. Unfortunately, this complex true-life story is told in a decidedly un-complex fashion. If you don’t see many movies, the overused tropes and storytelling tricks may work thanks to the good performances an amazing story. Otherwise, WiG will most likely just feel like a lifeless rehash, more bothered with bad Hollywood coincidences than reality.

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

 

Woman in Gold

By Cole Schneider

What’s worse: a bad movie or a dull movie? “Woman In Gold” is most certainly not a good movie; it’s misguided and largely aimless. Yet on some base level of objective criticism, it’s more mediocre than bad. At least it tells the story it is trying to tell. But watching “Woman In Gold” is almost agonizing. The film is completely dull. It’s rote, generic, boring, and completely uninspired.

The story follows an octogenarian Jewish refugee (played by an especially spirited Helen Mirren) and her lawyer (an ill-casted Ryan Reynolds) as they try to sue the Austrian government for holding her artwork hostage after the Nazi’s stole it. In the most Hollywood-esque way possible, it’s a story with a natural dramatic compulsion. However, all of that is undercut by the Hollywood blandness of its characters and by some of the laziest, ugliest, most narratively impractical flashbacks imaginable.

Some genuine humor might have helped, too, but there aren’t ten laughs in the film. It’s as if the writers thought that giving us a spunky old lady as the film’s history professor would provide an equal levity. Instead, we wallow in the easiest manipulations in modern storytelling: Nazi’s as enemies, artwork as preciousness, redemption as prestigious aggrandizement. It’s all tropes and devices served up dramatic intrigue. For a true story, it all comes out rather fake.

“Woman In Gold” is a professional film. But it would be far more interesting to watch a film mess-up than to stammer in lurid dullness. It’s a truly dismal viewing experience.

Rating: 1 out of 5 stars

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