Take 3: Woman in Gold Review + 440 Follower Thank You

For this Blog Follower Dedication Review, I was originally going to review some episodes of Murder, She Wrote. The two reasons for that decision were a) I haven’t reviewed Murder, She Wrote episodes since 2020 and b) I was going to offer something different for my readers and followers. But since I recently watched Woman in Gold, I chose to write about that movie instead. The 2015 film revolves around the subject of art restoration, specifically art stolen during World War II. When it comes to entertainment media, this subject seems to have received more awareness within the previous decade. Two years after the release of Woman in Gold, the Signed, Sealed, Delivered series tackled this subject in their movie; Signed, Sealed, Delivered: Home Again. In 2014, Robert M. Edsel’s book, The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History, was adapted into a film. These are just three movies, with two of them based on a true story. Think of all the other stories like these that haven’t been covered in film yet?

Woman in Gold poster created by BBC Films, Origin Pictures, Entertainment Film Distributors, The Weinstein Company, and Constantin Film

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: Helen Mirren is an actress who has a commanding presence. While I’ve only seen a handful of her movies, the ones I have watched feature her as a lead actress or in a prominent role within an ensemble. In Woman in Gold, Helen portrays Maria, a woman desiring to reunite with a painting of her aunt. Maria was eccentric in the film. But the way she was presented in the movie was pleasant and inviting! On a trip to the airport, Randol ‘Randy’ Schoenberg and his wife are giving Maria a lift. When Randy mentions how much luggage was packed, Maria replies, nonchalantly, how they should arrive in Austria in style. Before meeting with the art museum’s archivist, Maria excitedly tells Randy how their mission is like a James Bond film, with Randy as Sean Connery. This presentation, as well as the on-screen camaraderie, made Maria someone to root for!

In my years of watching and reviewing movies, I have noticed a more successful transition of comedic actors in dramatic roles. This was Ryan Reynolds’ case in Woman in Gold. When Randy first meets Maria, the subject of her recently deceased sister is brought up. After seeing how much stuff Maria inherited from her sister, Randy jokingly remarks how she will no longer have to argue with her roommate. Remembering why Maria has her sister’s belongings, he quickly apologizes for the ill-timed joke. Even when scenes are more light-hearted, Ryan utilized his comedic acting skills. However, it never overshadowed his dramatic efforts!

The more of Daniel Brühl’s movies I see, the more I appreciate his acting talents! So, when I discovered his involvement in Woman in Gold, it piqued my interest in watching the film. Daniel portrayed Hubertus Czernin, a reporter from Austria. Because he supports the art restoration movement, Hubertus uses his resources to help Maria and Randy. The scene where these three characters are interacting for the first time showcases Daniel’s acting skills! While Hubertus is speaking about who he is and why the aforementioned movement is so important to him, you can sense how at ease Daniel is in his role. His mannerisms come across so naturally, the interaction between these three characters felt realistic. With all that said, I wish Daniel had more appearances in this film, as he was only in a handful of scenes.

The historical accuracy: As I’ve said in past reviews, an indicator of a movie’s time period is the inclusion of technology. Some parts of Woman in Gold take place in the late ‘90s. Therefore, bigger, boxier computers are shown at Randy’s law firm. Randy’s cell phone looks like one sold from around that time period, even sporting an antenna. But technology is not the only indicator of when a story takes place. A series of flashbacks show pieces of Maria’s life, including moments from around World War II. In these flashbacks, wardrobe elaborates on that story’s respective time. The World War II segments show Maria wearing sensible blouses and skirts that reach the knees. These parts of the flashbacks even show characters in tailored coats.

The legal side of art restoration: When I think of art restoration, I reflect on the process of restoring a piece to its original form. But because Woman in Gold revolves around restoring art to its original origin, the legal component is explored. A lot of well-known pieces I’m familiar with were acquired by respected museums and institutions. Therefore, I, more often than not, assumed those museums and institutions legally owned those pieces. Even if a museum or institution acquires an art piece, Randy and Maria’s story shows how difficult it is to obtain ownership of such a priceless artifact. Woman in Gold not only highlights United States law, it also addresses Austrian law. This allows the audience to witness the similarities and differences between these two legal systems.

Art tools image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/flar-art-tools-pack_835368.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>.  <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/paint”>Paint vector created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What I didn’t like about the film:

How Randy’s grandfather was an afterthought: Throughout the story, Randy’s grandfather, a renowned composer, is brought up by various characters. Maria even claims to have crossed paths with him. Since the film primarily focuses on Maria’s efforts to reunite with her aunt’s portrait, Randy’s grandfather seems like a footnote within the overall narrative. As a viewer, I get the impression Randy deeply cared about his grandfather. A shot of Randy tearing up at a concert celebrating his grandfather’s work serves as one example of this assumption. Unfortunately, I don’t feel I learned enough about Randy’s grandfather from this story.

Some rushed parts of the story: Another thing I’ve said in past reviews is how there’s only so much story you can tell within a given run-time. In the case of Woman in Gold, the movie is an hour and forty-nine minutes. Because of this and because of how long and complimented the legal process is, some parts of the story were rushed. One example was when Maria and Randy took the Austrian government to court in California. I know that any on-screen court case is going to be abbreviated for the sake of time. However, the aforementioned California case only presented the opening arguments and the end result. As someone who wanted to learn more about the legal side of art restoration, it felt like the script skipped some key elements just to get to the exciting parts of the case.

Weak segues between flashbacks and “present time”: I like how the story incorporated pieces of Maria’s life through flashbacks, giving depth to the overall narrative. Unfortunately, I found the segues between these flashbacks and “present time” weak. In one scene, Maria is looking out a window. All of a sudden, a flashback begins. Several moments later, the flashback ends abruptly. Weak segues like this one caused the flow of these scenes to feel a bit choppy.

Courtroom image created by Macrovector at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/isometric”>Isometric vector created by macrovector – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

Before I share my overall impression, I’d like to thank every follower of 18 Cinema Lane! I appreciate the time you’ve given to reading and engaging with my content! Now, on to my overall impression of Woman in Gold! The subject of restoring art stolen during World War II has, in the past decade, received more awareness within entertainment media. In the case of the aforementioned film, it explores the legal side of that subject. I did learn how complicated the process of art ownership can be. The movie also had its strengths, such as the acting performances and the project’s historical accuracy. But due to the film’s heavier subject matter, the re-watchability rate isn’t as strong as other films I’ve reviewed. The movie had its flaws as well, with some rushed parts of the story as one example. With all that said, Woman in Gold is a film I would recommend, especially if you’re interested in the topics brought up in this review.

Overall score: 7.4 out of 10

Do you see Woman in Gold? Have you seen any films about restoring art stolen during World War II? Let me know in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

The Gold Sally Awards is back with On-Screen Couple and Best Ensemble Polls!

Hi everyone! The Gold Sally Awards is almost over! In these polls, you will have the chance to vote for the Best On-Screen Couple and Best Ensemble. Both polls will begin today, on May 25th, and end on June 1st. While you can vote for more than one nominee, you can only vote once per person. The link to the polls will be located under each poll. Just click on the word ‘Poll Maker’.

Who is the Best On-Screen Couple of 2021?

 

1. Candace Cameron Bure and Niall Matter — Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: Til Death Do Us Part
2. Daniel Brühl and Natascha McElhone — Ladies in Lavender
3. Ralph Macchio and Tamlyn Tomita — The Karate Kid Part II
4. William R. Moses and Alex Datcher — Perry Mason: The Case of the Telltale Talk Show Host
5. Marshall Williams and Natalie Hall — Sincerely, Yours, Truly
6. John Moulder-Brown and Lynne Frederick — Vampire Circus
7. Janel Parrish and Jeremy Jordan — Holly and Ivy
8. Francis Huster and Geneviève Bujold — Another Man, Another Chance
9. Fredric March and Janet Gaynor — A Star Is Born (1937)
10. Jesse Metcalfe and Sarah Lind –Poisoned in Paradise: A Martha’s Vineyard Mystery
Created with Poll Maker
What is the Best Ensemble of 2021?

 

1. The Karate Kid (1984)
2. The Three Musketeers (1948)
3. The Love Letter
4. Perry Mason: The Case of the Telltale Talk Show Host
5. Sincerely, Yours, Truly
6. Rigoletto
7. Holly and Ivy
8. The King and I (1956)
9. A Star Is Born (1937)
10. Poisoned in Paradise: A Martha’s Vineyard Mystery
Create your own Poll Maker

Have fun voting!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Ladies in Lavender Review

This is my first time participating in the Luso World Cinema Blogathon. Because I’m not familiar with the subject of Luso World Cinema, I gave my submission careful consideration. A movie I have wanted to watch for a while is Ladies in Lavender. When I discovered Daniel Brühl was one of the blogathon’s recommended subjects, I decided to review his 2005 film, as he is one of the starring actors in that movie. I haven’t seen many projects from Daniel’s filmography. In fact, the only film of his I’ve seen is Captain America: Civil War. So, this is a good opportunity for me to see what his acting talents have to offer outside of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The synopsis of Ladies in Lavender reminded me of Swept from the Sea, a movie I reviewed two years ago. Because of this, I will compare and contrast these two films from time to time in this review.

Ladies in Lavender poster created by Tale Partnerships, Scala Productions, and Lakeshore International.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: For this part of the review, I will take a moment to talk about Daniel Brühl’s performance, as he is the reason why I reviewed this movie. His portrayal of Andrea was enjoyable to watch! It combined both comedic and dramatic elements that helped make Daniel’s performance entertaining. One example is when Andrea is peeling potatoes with Dorcas. What also worked in Daniel’s favor was how he was able to portray his character realistically. Whenever Andrea is trying to make his wishes known to the other characters, you can see him becoming frustrated at times. This was achieved through Daniel’s facial expressions and body language. Despite not being familiar with Natascha McElhone as an actress, I did like her portrayal of Olga. She appeared throughout the film as an approachable character. Natascha also had a good on-screen relationship with Daniel Brühl as well as with the other actors. A perfect example is when Olga is interacting with Andrea in her cottage. Speaking of on-screen relationships, I liked seeing Judi Dench and Maggie Smith work together in this film. While they have similar acting styles, their characters were allowed to have their own distinct personalities. This let them shine individually as well as together! One of their best scenes is when their characters, Janet and Ursula, receive terrible news over the phone. As Janet is telling her sister what happened, Ursula immediately crumbles into tears. This scene showcases how the sisters have an unbreakable bond!

The scenery: Similar to Swept from the Sea, Ladies in Lavender takes place in the English countryside. This particular environment provided photogenic scenery that visually complemented the story! Because Ladies in Lavender is set in a seaside town, there are some scenes that take place around the ocean. It was captured very well on film at various moments, from a morning scene where the rising sun perfectly contrasted the water to a night-time shot of the rolling waves. Country landscapes were also included in the movie! In one scene, Olga is painting a landscape of rolling hills with a nearby tower. The location itself contained beautiful green hills that looked great on a sunny day. The gray of the nearby tower paired surprisingly well with the rolling hills’ green hue. Because of how picturesque this space was, it makes sense that Olga would want to capture it on canvas!

The cinematography: I was pleasantly surprised by the good cinematography found in Ladies in Lavender, especially when it came to scenes involving water! In films where a character is drowning, those scenes are usually presented with a fast pace and quick cuts. When we see Andrea’s flashbacks, they are presented at a slower pace. This allowed the audience to see what is happening on screen as Andrea is shown in the water. One of the most beautifully shot scenes I’ve ever seen is when Andrea is playing a violin on a rocky ledge at night. His dark silhouette perfectly contrasts with the deep blue ocean that looks like it sparkles in the evening. The color scheme of blue, white, and black are prominently featured and is visually appealing!

The Second Luso World Cinema Blogathon banner created by Le from Critica Retro and by Beth from Spellbound by Movies.

What I didn’t like about the film:

An unclear direction: In Swept from the Sea, the overall story is a drama with a romance included. This is a clear creative direction that was consistent throughout the film.  Ladies in Lavender is different, as the story went in many different directions. It gets to the point where it was difficult to determine what the plot was about besides the main premise. Was the story supposed to be about a forbidden romance? Or was it meant to revolve around the strained relationship between two siblings? Maybe it was supposed to partially focus on Andrea’s musical dreams? The story of Ladies in Lavender adopted too many ideas. That decision made the overall film feel like it was bouncing around from place to place.

Telling more than showing: At various moments in Ladies in Lavender, the audience is told how Andrea was washed up ashore. We are even shown flashbacks where he is seen drowning. However, we never get to see the events that caused Andrea to fall overboard. Because of this, the audience is not given a complete picture of what happened. At one point in the story, Janet and Ursula meet Olga. They express how they don’t like this new visitor. But the audience never receives an explanation for why Janet and Ursula do not like Olga. Visuals should have been used to illustrate the sisters’ point. If this had been the case, we might have gotten a better glimpse into Janet and Ursula’s perspective.

The exclusion of Andrea’s perspective: I know this movie is called Ladies in Lavender, with the title referring to Janet and Ursula. But because the overall story primarily focused on Janet and Ursula’s perspective, we don’t see the story from Andrea’s perspective. In Swept from the Sea, the story is narrated by Dr. Kennedy. Despite this, the audience is allowed to see that film’s world from Yanko’s perspective. That aspect of Swept from the Sea also gave the audience an opportunity to truly get to know Yanko as a character. With Ladies in Lavender, I feel like I barely know Andrea. The inclusion of Andrea’s perspective would have easily solved this issue.

Paper Boats in the Sea image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/background-of-paper-boats-with-hand-drawn-waves_1189898.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

Ladies in Lavender is a film that I found to be just ok. Yes, there are aspects worth appreciating, such as Daniel Brühl’s performance. As a matter of fact, this movie made me appreciate Daniel’s acting abilities more! But if I had to choose between Ladies in Lavender and Swept from the Sea, I’d choose Swept from the Sea. This is because I find that movie to be stronger among the two. With Ladies in Lavender, the direction of the overall story was unclear. While there was a main conflict, it was difficult to determine what the main plot was. More telling than showing was also one of the movie’s flaws, not giving the audience the full picture when it came to certain areas of the story. I found the lack of Andrea’s perspective to be disappointing as well. This prevented me from truly getting to know Andrea as a character. Even though Ladies in Lavender will not be one of the best movies I saw this year, I am glad I participated in the Luso World Cinema Blogathon. I wonder what I’ll chose to write about next year?

Overall score: 6.3 out of 10

Have you seen Ladies in Lavender? Are there any Luso World Cinema films you’d like to see me review? Share your thoughts in the comment section below!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen