It’s an annoying feeling when you try to look at modern art which is being praised in a new gallery, and what you find is someone’s arbitrarily realized ideal in severed terms, aimed at reaching millions, generating the interest of very few, and leaving you fervently scratching your head like a monkey at his spectators, wondering how such a piece of art made it to the gallery in the first place.
An example of great art – apt for discussion – is a portrait doused by the late, great Gustav Klimt. To think that some such art, based on an immeasurable opus of his own, would be inspired and inspiring enough to hold a candle in the eye’s of aficionados today, would be common sense.
Unfortunately this is not something many people can apply to their work. One dreary such film, as to be based not only on a Klimt portrait, but on a true story surrounding it, astoundingly proposing to be an ‘art’ film itself, falls in to the former category, and not the suspected latter. Crack your knuckles, folks.
Woman in Gold, the new motion picture (if you call it one) from The Weinstein Company (who should know better) and Origin Pictures, tells the real life story of one Jewish woman, Maria Altmann (played by the picture’s true Gold, the incomparable Helen Mirren, in top form here) who with the help of a young, ambitious attorney named Randy Schoenberg (a sleepwalking Ryan Reynolds) attempted to regain custody of the Klimt portrait fashioned after her Aunt Adele (the beautiful Antje Traue, seen in flashback) which was stolen from her family by the Nazis in Austria during World War II. A beautiful story of redemption, that’s certain. In fact, there is so much creativity in an idea for a picture of this caliber, it’s ridiculous; quite a banquet of ideas for the film lover to feast upon. Too bad the cooks left out the proper ingredients.
With the wayward form of exhibition that cinema is taking these days, it’s regrettably understandable that director Simon Curtis (My Week With Marilyn, countless TV shows) attempts to play the film on a more “down to earth” level, in more “politically correct” terms. What I suspect he was doing to “keep the story real, believable” only ended up making me want to go to sleep – like all the field trips to the art Museum I took with my school used to do. And there is nothing to expect from the leads to droll out any interest.
The actors aren’t given much to do (or say) in their scenes. By troth, Mirren and Reynolds have about as much chemistry as a fire in a snowstorm, and throughout most of the movie, they don’t even seem to be talking to each other on the same page as it were. It would be easier (and more fun) to assume they were two different characters from two different movies spliced together in some second rate film school class on how not to make a movie of this nature. It doesn’t help either, when A-list talents as Katie Holmes (the wife), Charles Dance (the boss), Jonathan Pryce, and a welcome appearance by Elizabeth McGovern (the judge) are given second to nothing, thankless roles.
To be honest, Curtis and co. have relied on their audience to know the story first hand, and therefore rely on it to assume the emotion of continuity that should help pull the troph of it’s bored audience through the muddy slide of worthless low ground it features it’s standards by. It can’t even do that. There’s no through line to connect, emotionally or otherwise, the scenes with which to make any proper emotional sense.
Because Curtis feels he has the hard part of making us understand the story’s importance (which he cheated by relying thus) down, he pollutes the picture by littering hackneyed bits of comic relief around certain scenes to try and add a layer of modern relativity (Mirren spouting slangs and terms to relate to Reynolds much younger character) – which given the fact that the film takes place in 1998, kersplats like the tomatoes being thrown at the screen (a thought I entertained the entire film).
The only other commendation this film is awarded, besides the always reliable Mirren and a couple of fantastic co-stars, is the way Los Angeles is featured so prominently in the 1998 scenes. Local audiences will get good looks of Westwood, Downtown Los Angeles, and Century City to distract their minds from the mindless ennui they won’t even realize they have succumbed to.
However this is short lived when it’s discovered Los Angeles looks like a pale second rate metropolis given the egregious digital presentation the audience was offered. There were no contrasts between light or dark in the picture quality, and nor was there depth in the image. Everything was flat. The lighting of the film was overall terrible and you couldn’t tell one object from the next.
Yes, it was promoted by the studios. How anyone will walk away from the film with anything more to say than “why do we care?” is anyone’s guess. When it all comes down, a film can have a great cast, tell a truly amazing story and be it pinned by whatever studio head it pleases God, all that glitters is not gold, and films such as this one, stand more of being a fool’s gold, than any of the villains in the shared story would have dared to think.