Helen Mirren glitters in 'Woman in Gold'

Rating: ★★★★★

"Woman in Gold," is based on true live events and stars Helen Mirren as a Maria Altman, a Jewish woman living in Los Angeles, who has a very pressing matter regarding a painting that was stolen from her family after the Nazis seized Austria during the Anschluss, leading up to World War II. Maria hires Randy Schoenberg (Ryan Reynolds), a young attorney that is the son of a family friend, to help her claim the painting and finally have it returned to her family.

Together, the unlikely pair travel to Austria to battle to recover the painting of her aunt Adele. This portrait, painted by Gustav Klimt, is now hanging in a museum in Vienna. The history of the painting, it's original owners and the subject, were irradiated from the records and the portrait was known for decades as the Woman in Gold. To understand what was at stake, the Austrians consider the painting as the Mona Lisa of Austria and the value of the painting exceeds over $100 million.

Upon arriving in Vienna, they meet up with a journalist Hubertus Czernin (Daniel Brühl). He becomes a necessary ally, especially with obtaining necessary documents to prove the true ownership of the painting. Yet, his true motives in helping remain private.

The journey taken by this young man and elderly woman is complicated, but told very well. Intertwined into the modern story, are scenes from Maria's past - the happy times she spent in her home, the aunt that she loved so dearly and at the end, the danger that the Nazis imposed on the lives of Maria and her family.

The result of the quest, will help to prove that sometimes when all things seemed against it, the truth will prevail. And as Randy goes through the motions of working for Maria, he finds that he, himself has something to reclaim himself - his own family connection to Austria and the how the holocaust stole from his family as well.

Serving as a basis for this finely made film is an excellent screenplay written by Alexi Kaye Campbell. It is based on life stories written on E. Randall Shoenberg and Maria Altman. Bringing the screenplay beautifully to life is the stellar direction by Simon Curtis. With a combination of powerful direction and a tight script, "Woman in Gold" is only bettered by the performances of Helen Mirren, Ryan Reynolds, Daniel Brühl and Katie Holmes.

Helen Mirren plays the understated character of Maria with perfection. She exemplifies the quirks and imperfections of Maria, that makes us truly believe in Maria as a real person - not as if just watching Helen play Maria. This ability to don the cloak of a completely different person is exactly why Mirren continues to be one of our most treasured actors.

Putting the final touches on the film are the seamless editing by Peter Lambert, the costumes and production design created both for modern day scenes and period scenes and beautiful photography by cinematographer Ross Emery ("Wolverine").

Although the release of "Woman of Gold" does not suggest that the distributor, The Weinstein Company, has faith that this film is award-worthy, I think it should not be forgotten come award time. This film is similar to last year's "Philomena," expect for the fact that this film is far better.

"Woman in Gold" is rated PG-13 for some thematic elements and brief strong language and has a run-time of 109 minutes.


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