All that glitters is “Woman in Gold”

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All that glitters is “Woman in Gold”

Bryn Treloar-Ballard

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Max Irons and Tatiana Maslany star in "Woman in Gold." Credit: The Weinstein Company and BBC Films

Max Irons and Tatiana Maslany star in “Woman in Gold.” Credit: The Weinstein Company and BBC Films

“Woman in Gold” may not be perfect. However, the story of Holocaust survivor Maria Altmann’s legal quest to get back a painting stolen from her family by the Nazis is a moving and thoroughly enjoyable reminder of the continued fight for art restitution.

Sure, it’s obviously attempting to be Oscar bait, but why should that be a bad thing? The story is poignant, the pacing superb, and the acting everything you’d expect from a professional like Dame Helen Mirren, who plays Maria Altmann; besides, it certainly makes a better go of telling the story of Nazi art theft than “The Monuments Men.”

Even the minor slip-ups, like the obviously new cars on the road in a movie which is supposed to be set in 1998, and the rather broad characterization by Ryan Reynolds in the beginning of the movie (Reynolds’ Randol Schoenberg is so blatantly physically drawn into himself as to render him a caricature), do little to spoil the overall picture. After all, the strength of the story mostly distracts from the sets’ errors, and Reynolds’ skillful characterization in the middle and end of the movie makes up for the roughness in the beginning.

However, the true standout character was the young Maria Altmann. She is snarky and courageous and immensely likable, and Tatiana Maslany’s command of the role leads the audience through every heart-rending moment of the young Altmann’s life in and escape from Nazi Austria.

Some minor characters, like Schoenberg’s wife (who has one of the funniest bits in the movie but does little for the story other than to give her one deadpan line) do feel glossed-over, but again, this detracts little from the overall picture.

Maybe “Woman in Gold” is a little cliched- all right, a lot cliched. However, this was, without a doubt, a well-crafted script. The humor, both in its delivery and very appearance in the script, felt natural coming from the salty Maria, and there was not a scene present which did not advance the plot. In the end, how is it a bad thing that you can easily predict the ending if it still has the power to move you to tears?

Other elements of the movie, while perhaps not the last word in movie production, certainly showed the care that went into the making of “Woman in Gold.” The score, while entirely lacking in subtlety, does compliment each scene well; the costumes stay mostly true to the era without making the movie feel dated.

But the most powerful part of the movie was neither its depiction of life in Nazi Austria nor of the fight against the bullheaded bureaucracy of the legal system. Rather, its relevance to today is what lends it its strength. As time takes us further from the Holocaust, its survivors are beginning to pass on, making it more important than ever that the young hear their stories and remember them.

After all, as the ongoing battles for art restitution show, we have yet to right all the wrongs of the Holocaust.

Background Photo Credit: The Winstein Company and BBC Films

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