Directed by: Simon Curtis (David Cooperfield – 1999)
Screenplay by: Alexi Kaye Campbell (first credit as a writer)
Released: April 10th, 2015
The Hook: Art and World War II
I admit, this movie was never on my radar until a patron returned it to the Circulation Desk letting us know it froze in the middle of the movie (ICYMI, I work at a library). Doing my duty, I popped it into the computer to double check it and I minimize it to a small screen while I continue with other work. And just so you know, I mute it. Every now and then I’d glance in that corner to make sure it was still playing and what captured my interest was they kept showing art work and then I saw Nazi flags. This got me thinking, “what movie is this?”
So I read the summary.
And then I was hooked.
And then I went home to watch it with sound and subtitles.
And now I’m writing a review.
Because it was a good movie.
A really good movie.
Based on true events.
Summary: The story takes place in 1998, or thereof, with flashbacks of the World War II era, just before the Nazi’s took over Austria. It follows the story of Marie Altman (Helen Mirren). Her sister died and she inherited her things which included some letters between her sister and a lawyer in Austria. The letters discuss some family paintings the Nazis stole but now sat in an art gallery in Austria, including the beloved painting of her aunt which is known to the world as “Woman In Gold.” Marie heard some discussion about the art restitution laws in Austria changing and decided to ask a family friend’s son, who is a lawyer, to look into it to see if she had a case.
What started out as a possible big payday for Randy Schoenberg (Ryan Reynolds) turns into an emotional journey that becomes personal and close to the heart as he and Marie take a trip to Austria to build a case against the gallery to return those treasured paintings to the rightful owner.
Review: This seriously gave me the feels. Tugs at your heart is what it does.
The overall story is just … wow. It’s based on actual events and the personal experience of Marie Altman. And since it’s based on actual events, I can’t really comment much on originality, plot, and design except that the screenplay was well-written. As with any film based on actual events, the exactness of events are embellished in the film, but the overall facts remain the same. I’m not judging on how close they kept to actual events; just want to make that clear. The story flowed from one scene to another and I think the flashbacks weren’t overdone. They added to the story and enhanced the journey. It didn’t override it like some films do. It added just the right amount of history to appreciate the journey Marie was taking to reclaim her past and face her demons.
The camera work was also done well. There’s not much call for flashiness or special effects, but the filters for the flashbacks were nicely done. It added the feel of a flashback without taking away from the “reality” of it. Camera placements didn’t detract from the storytelling either. The sets were beautiful and costumes where nicely done. Again, I’m not judging on historical accuracy so if the costumes had some historical mistakes it’s overlooked for the fact that it did its job; it made you understand when you were in 1998 and when you were around the 1940s.
The acting. My gosh, this film had two favorite stars: Helen Mirren and Ryan Reynolds. I don’t think I can say more than that. Helen Mirren did an outstanding job, as always and Ryan Reynolds added just the right amount of charm with the movie as serious as it is. They played their parts well. And I just have to say that I loved seeing King Edward IV (Max Irons) in this? I loved Max Irons in the White Queen. Just binge-watched that this weekend and so it was nice to see he segued into a film with two of my favorite stars. Katie Holmes did well as a supporting role to Reynolds. I haven’t seen her in a while and I liked seeing her.
Verdict: I loved this movie. I can watch it again and again. Art and history. Love them. But times are changing. I don’t know if I’d actually buy the DVD to add to my physical library. It’s definitely a must-see for any movie lover, especially those who love drama, who love art, and who love history.
Credits: IMDb for movie credits, MovieInsider for movie poster, & Deadline.com for “Woman In Gold” portrait.