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Movie Review

Woman in Gold

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some thematic elements and brief strong language.

Reviewed by: Hannah NeCamp

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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Biography Drama
1 hr. 49 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
April 3, 2015 (258 theaters)
April 10, 2015 (1,504 theaters)
DVD: July 7, 2015
Copyright, The Weinstein Company click photos to ENLARGE Copyright, The Weinstein Company Copyright, The Weinstein Company Copyright, The Weinstein Company Copyright, The Weinstein Company Copyright, The Weinstein Company
Relevant Issues
Copyright, The Weinstein Company


importance of making restitution for wrongs committed

terrible treatment of Jews by the Nazis during the Anschluss and in WWII

the Holocaust of World War II

the late Maria Altmann

Gustav Klimt's Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I

Republic of Austria v. Altmann (2004)

Documentary films in which Maria Altmann's story is discussed:
• “The Rape of Europa” (2006)
• “Stealing Klimt” (2007)
• “Adele's Wish” (2008)

Featuring: Helen MirrenMaria Altmann
Ryan ReynoldsRandol Schoenberg
Frances FisherMrs. Schoenberg, Randol’s mother
Katie HolmesPam
Tatiana Maslany … Young Maria Altmann
Max Irons … Fredrick “Fritz” Altmann
Daniel BrühlHubertus Czernin
Elizabeth McGovern
Charles Dance … Sherman
Antje Traue
more »
Director: Simon Curtis—“My Week with Marilyn” (2011)
Producer: Origin Pictures
2nd District Filmproduktion
BBC Films
Distributor: The Weinstein Company

“Justice is priceless.”

“People forget, you see, especially the young. And then of course, there’s justice.”

“Woman in Gold” is the beautiful, true story of Maria Altmann (Helen Mirren) and her family. Born to a wealthy Jewish family in Vienna, Maria and her husband barely escaped the Nazis in the days before Hitler implemented his Final Solution. But she left behind her beloved parents, even though she left with their blessing. But their parting was a moment that Maria couldn’t leave behind.

Now, in 1998, the past pays a poignant visit. When her sister passes away, she finds in Luisa’s effects a reminder of a family treasure: a portrait of her beloved Aunt Adele by the master Gustav Klimt, commissioned by Adele’s husband. Stolen from their home by the Nazis, now hanging in the prestigious Belvedere Museum in Vienna and renamed The Woman in Gold, it is held as Austria’s Mona Lisa. When Maria tells a friend of her interest in reclaiming the painting, the friend mentions her son, a once-promising, young attorney lately starting over after the failure of his own firm. When Maria meets Randy Schoenberg, himself descended from a prominent Jewish family of pre-war Vienna, she decides that he is the man to help her.

Randy, played by Ryan Reynolds, is convinced to take on the mission after doing some private research: the painting has an estimated value of over one hundred million dollars. Their battle eventually takes them to the United States Supreme Court and beyond. Their journey takes them—and us—to places far greater.

There is so much good in this movie that it is hard to put it into relatively few words. Maria wishes to reclaim the painting, not for the money, not for the fame, but rather because of the memory of an aunt who was very dear to her. She talked to little Maria about life; she exhorted her niece to not be timid: “Your only enemy is fear.” I think it is the memory of this that helps Maria go back to Austria to retrieve the painting, even though she had determined to never return. The simple act of remembering all that was lost, all that was taken from her, all of the suffering… it was more than she wanted to face.

We all come from someone, something of history. We owe it to those who have gone before us to remember. We owe them the remembrance of not only the good, but also the evil. The Holocaust is not something trivial, a point in history from which we measure time. The Holocaust happened because evil men were allowed to do unspeakable evil unhindered. Edmund Burke says it well when he reminds us, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” And there was too much nothing done by too many people. The Holocaust happened to real people with real families whom they loved… people like Maria.

The transformation in Randy is heartwarming. A young man driven by a need for success and achievements and money is broken when he visits the Holocaust Memorial in Austria with Maria. When he touches the name “Treblinka,” the death camp where his great-grandparents were murdered, Randy is forever changed. He is no longer in this case for the money; it has become a personal and a moral mandate, something close to an obsession. It is sweet to see the support of his wife: “Randy you have to do this. You are doing the right thing.” The story and the mission changed people: Randy… his wife… Maria… and more.

Maria and Randy find an unexpected ally when they arrive in Vienna for Round One. A young man named Hubertus Czernin attaches himself to the two and to their cause because of a “certain kind of patriotism.” Near the end of the film we learn that Hubertus’ patriotism has roots much deeper than a desire to improve Austria’s image.

The growth in the characters is a wonderful part of the movie, but the virtues and values portrayed in it take it to a deeper place, even to a precious place. You don’t need further explanation if you watch the movie yourself. And this is what makes the movie compelling, truly it does.

There is a certain amount of violence and much more of the fearful expectation of terrible things to come. We know all too well why the Jews were running from Nazi soldiers—and this, too, is something that we simply cannot forget. It is not a movie for little ones. The language that I could hear is as follows: sh*t (1), d*mn (1), G*d d*mn (1), for G*d’s sakes (1), OMG (1), and f***ing (1). At one point in the movie Randy asks Maria how he looks, and she replies, “Sexy and victorious. How about me?”, and he replies the same. There are scenes where Randy and his wife are talking together in bed, but there is nothing inappropriate.

“Woman in Gold” is a beautiful story, one worth watching. If you can appreciate fine art, beautiful music, and history, you should see this movie. The acting is tremendous. Helen Mirren shows us again why she is counted among the best of the best. Ryan Reynolds does an excellent job, only perhaps suffering in comparison to Ms. Mirren. Many of the film’s locations are absolutely beautiful. The rhythm and pace of the movie, alternating between the present day and Maria’s past, is smooth and effective. The story will make you laugh and cry.

But even more, “Woman in Gold” is a good story, that is to say, a story about things that are good and true and lovely, things that are precious, things that we need to remember, things that we and our children must remember. This is a movie that needed to be made and truly needs to be watched. We can never be reminded too often of some things.

Watch this movie. Take your teen-aged children to watch this movie—not because it is entertaining, but because it is good, very good. And when you see it, do yourself (and me) a favor: “Remember.”

Violence: Mild / Profanity: Moderate to heavy (but brief) / Sex/Nudity: Mild—a little cleavage and a touch

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Comments below:
Positive—NeCamp has written an excellent review of an excellent film. I believe it’s one of the best films out of Babylon—I mean Hollywood—in years. Beautiful, moving, and it’s a true story. Highly recommended.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Excellent! / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Leonardo, age 72 (USA)
Positive—This is a pleasant movie, free of sex or profanity, with wonderful cinematography, good acting, and a script based on a true story.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 3½
—Brian Schacht, age 68 (Canada)
Positive—I highly recommend this movie. As she always is, Helen Mirren is outstanding in her role—in this case, as a Jewish woman who spent many years trying to recover a work of art that had been confiscated from her family by the Nazis and that subsequently came into the possession of the Austrian authorities and that became, in the words of one of the characters, “Austria’s Mona Lisa.”

The movie is an excellent reminder of another aspect of the Holocaust that is far too often forgotten. As soon as “Woman in Gold” comes out in video, my wife and I will be buying it to add to our collection.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Excellent! / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Don Bryant, age 64 (Canada)
Positive—A surprise sleeper for me. I didn’t expect this movie to be that good. I only saw it because the radio talk show host, Mark Levin recommended it. It brought tears to my manly eyes, but don’t tell anyone. An extremely touching and emotional movie of historical value.

Academy Award winner Helen Mirren does it again with this worthy of an Oscar performance as best actress again for playing, Maria Altmann, a Jewish refugee who is forced to flee Vienna during World War II. Tatiana Maslany playing the young Maria Altmann was outstanding and should be named for best supporting actress.

The screenplay was excellent, which should be nominated also for an award. Maria has taken on a mission to reclaim a painting the Nazis stole from her family taking on all the juggernauts courts of two Countries. There was one F-word and one S-word in the movie.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Robert Garcia, age 68 (USA)
Positive—“Woman In Gold” is a treasur—a good film about a Jewish woman named Maria Altmann who wants to get back what is rightfully hers, artwork taken by the Nazis and now is in a Museum. The works of art are paintings of her aunt, Adele. The case is one of triumph, and the film relates to the struggles of this world, mine and everybody else’s, and we need to pray about these struggles. The film is very encouraging when it comes to if we accept Christ we can conquer, especially if we surrender to him.

However, there is some unforgiveness in the film, and I don’t know if Maria ever forgave her suspects, although we need to trust God she did, and there is a little cursing. However, the good in the film outweighs the bad. Do one thing for me everybody: remember.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 3
—Stephen Jacewicz, age 20 (USA)
Positive—This is a great film about personal and national redemption through justice, that everyone should see. Both a holocaust movie and a lawyer movie, it has great performances by the entire cast, particularly Helen Mirren, and incredible attention to detail. Although it deals largely with Nazi and post-Nazi Austria, it also has messages for us about how we deal with the evils done in our society the past, whether we take advantage of them or make amends, and whether we seek to do justice or just make money. We know what Jesus and the prophets would do.

…everyone should see and think about this film.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Excellent! / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Stanley Hirtle, age 70 (USA)
Movie Critics

…an adequate film on dazzling Klimt painting… But the film does have an asset that can't be ignored, and that's Helen Mirren's tip-top performance…
—Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times

…This heavy-handed retelling of the fight to reclaim a Gustav Klimt painting stolen by Nazis is no masterpiece. …
—Peter Debruge, Variety

…The casting of Mr. Reynolds as Randy is especially unfortunate. …delivers a bland, colorless performance… without her [Ms. Mirren] [the film] would be a laborious slog down a well-trodden path.
—Stephen Holden, The New York Times

…suffers from a general lack of economy and a tendency to spell out its righteous indignation in speechy dialogue, even when the characters aren't at a podium or in a courtroom. …
—David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter

…acks luster due to stodgy storytelling…
—Claudia Puig, USA Today

…a tale of great art, great crimes and great perseverance, “Woman in Gold” is itself rather less than great. …
—Ty Burr, The Boston Globe

…sluggish and talky…
—Michael O’Sullivan, The Washington Post

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