WOMAN IN GOLD

2013’s Philomena was a true-life drama distributed by The Weinstein Company about a strong-willed elderly woman who pairs up with a younger man, and travels with him in order to find a loved one who was taken from her many years earlier.

By contrast, Woman in Gold is a true-life drama distributed by The Weinstein Company about a strong-willed elderly woman who pairs up with a younger man, and travels – hang on a second…

Woman in Gold is just another in a long line of films ‘based on a true story’ churned out by Bob and Harvey Weinstein. At least Philomena benefitted from an emotional connection to its subject matter and the talents of Steve Coogan. Woman in Gold suffers from a lack of anyone involved seeming remotely interested in what’s going on.

Helen Mirren plays Maria Altmann, an Austrian Jew living in California. Just prior to the Second World War, a painting of her aunt – Gustav Klimt’s Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I – was taken from her family by the Nazis. Maria sees the painting as rightfully hers, so she enlists the help of lawyer Randy Schoenberg (Ryan Reynolds) to help her win it back.

Randy has a personal connection to her plight; he happens to be the grandson of composer Arnold Schoenberg, who fled the Nazis in 1934. He files a claim against the Austrian government, who are convinced that the painting is a national treasure which belongs in its home country.

If the story itself sounds interesting, then screenwriter Alexi Kaye Campbell and director Simon Curtis do everything to ensure that their film isn’t. Curtis helmed My Week with Marilyn (2011), a lightweight drama elevated by the wonderful performances of Michelle Williams and Kenneth Branagh. The fact Mirren and Reynolds are an unusual coupling helps their chemistry, but their performances are uninspired.

God knows there are worse films than Woman in Gold, but few are this bland. Curtis’ roots in TV are blatantly obvious; the whole thing looks about as cinematic as a Channel 5 original. Campbell, being a playwright, really should know the importance of good dialogue, but has written a lazy, workaday screenplay that squanders any dramatic opportunities.

WOMAN IN GOLD

On the plus side, the scenes of a younger Maria and her husband fleeing the Nazis are actually quite thrilling.

But it’s a brief moment of excitement in a film so wholly unremarkable that it will continue to pale into insignificance until even Reynolds forgets that he ever acted in it.

Woman In Gold is available in the UK on DVD from August 3rd

Logan Jones