"You People Never Give Up, Do You? Not Everything is About the Holocaust."
Unfortunately, “Woman in Gold” is not that kind of movie. “Woman in Gold” feels like an extended television procedural for most of the film, choosing to show the audience lengthy court scenes and preparatory sessions instead of anything that could make them care about the outcome of this case. The medium of film may not have been the best one to use to tell this story—most of the time “Woman in Gold” feels entirely uncinematic. Especially in the first hour or so, the dialogue is mostly expositional and the attention to character detail is virtually nil. If I was not watching Helen Mirren and Ryan Reynolds try their hardest to create dramatic tension out of nothing, I would not believe that this was a story worth telling. As it is, I believe that it’s a worthwhile tale—but somebody else should have done the telling of it.
In adapting this story, writer Alexi Kaye Campbell makes several classic mistakes. He demonstrates a lack of focus in telling the story, and a lack of understanding about what makes this story exciting. He transfers narrative power to Reynolds’ character, a lawyer swimming in debt who begins the story with selfish motives, thereby shunting Altmann’s personal journey to the side. Any conflict in the film seems manufactured, shoe-horned in, which is odd to me because there were many roadblocks in the journey to retrieve these paintings. However, if this film is to be believed, once the battle is taken to court there are few who do not sympathize with Altmann’s cause. Our main characters, even though they are attempting to remove a national artifact from a museum, are never for a moment portrayed in a light that is not steeped with moral righteousness and almost divine purpose, a decision that removes all complexity from the story and sends the film’s climax hurtling towards an emotionally manipulative resolution.
As things stand, I can’t recommend “Woman in Gold”. Although Mirren and Reynolds still manage to turn out great performances, they are not good enough to carry this film through its many, many rough patches. At times beautiful, this film is nevertheless no work of art worth fighting for.