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?
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.
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.
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!