|'Like a modern day Clark Kent Ryan Reynolds' bold physical alteration involves becoming rather more schlubby and geek-like and donning obligatory glasses.'|
Like a modern day Clark Kent the latter in this case is Ryan Reynolds, whose bold physical alteration involves becoming rather more schlubby and geek-like and donning obligatory glasses. Reynolds lawyer, Randy Schoenberg, is partnered with octogenarian Maria Altmann (the Oscar-winning Helen Mirren), who searches for justice in the case of the titular painting, stolen from her family by the Nazis and now resident in an Austrian museum.
That should make for an intriguing setup with layers of geo-political intrigue but, although the film mentions them often, it never gets to grips with them. Writer Alexi Kaye Campbell gives director Simon Curtis a character through which to launch these ideas from (Daniel Brühl's idealist journalist, Hubertus), but he only ever pops up to tell us that Austria has yet to come to terms with its past. Curtis and Campbell meanwhile seem unable or unwilling to give us some route into a potentially grim-yet-fascinating cultural problem which would expand Woman In Gold out from character piece to modern cultural analysis. Later scenes hint at motivations of governments but then back away from them as quickly as a weak journalist, who dare not report the answer.
The by-product of this is that the character Drama also seems to make broad comments on the more serious aspects. Austria is broadly bad. America is broadly good. Schoenberg points out at one point that this isn't the case, as if aware that the film he is in is heading this way, but it feels hollow.
What remains is an at-times likeable character piece, with Mirren in predictably warm curmudgeonly form and Reynolds affably playing along. It entertains for its two hours or so, for the most part, fires off a few cliches and makes headway only in a limited number of areas. Really, it needs to do a lot more, particularly if the Weinsteins wanted serious awards contention.