Maria Altmann, an octogenarian Jewish refugee, takes on the Austrian government to recover artwork she believes rightfully belongs to her family.
An elderly lady, played by an Oscar winning British dame putting on an accent, goes half way around the world with a middle-aged sceptic man, trying to right the wrongs that have happened to her by an oppressive regime and coming across various obstacles along the way while sharing humorous dialogue and having second thoughts before a heart-warming finale. It’s ‘Philomena‘! Except, it isn’t. Sadly.
I can only assume The Weinstein Company, wanted to repeat the success of ‘Philomena‘ and thus kept rigidly to a very similar storyline. Helen Mirren plays the Judi Dench role, as Maria Altmann with Ryan Reynolds a very poor Steve Coogan as Randy Schoenberg. The unlikely plot is, again like Philomena, a true story – Altmann, a jew, was hounded out of Austria during WW2 and managed to make her way to California where, after her sister dies 50 years on, she decides to try to be reunited with a family-owned painting by Gustav Klimt – ‘Woman in Gold‘ – which the Nazis stole and is now hanging in a Viennese museum. The director Simon Curtis (‘My Week with Marilyn‘) chooses to mix the modern day trials of Altmann and Schoenberg (her lawyer) with flashbacks to a younger Altmann fleeing Austria as the Nazis overrun Vienna. This is both to the film’s credit and detriment, as the flashbacks are the best thing in the film and simply made me wish I were watching that film instead. The returns to the modern day sequences left me frustrated.
Helen Mirren enjoys herself in the role, yet I found Ryan Reynolds to be wooden and clumsy. He is an actor who is on a considerable run of flops (I count 8, from 2011’s ‘Green Lantern‘ to now) and despite a couple of rom-com hits, I haven’t enjoyed a single film in which he has a starring role. Not good. Katie Holmes plays his doting wife and is another actor who I find unbearable. In this, she seems happy to look after their 2 children while Schoenberg is off on self-funded jaunts around the world (he quits his job to take the case), putting their mortgage at risk. A pathetic character. Cameo roles for Daniel Bruhl & Charles Dance are wasted – they’re good actors, let us see more of them!
Overall, a film not without charm, but lacking in originality. Helen Mirren can do better. Reynolds and Holmes – this is your level.
Review by Richard Mason
Directed By: Simon Curtis
Starring: Helen Mirren, Ryan Reynolds, Daniel Bruhl, Katie Holmes, Charles Dance, Jonathan Pryce, Tatiana Maslany, Max Irons and Frances Fisher