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Movie Review: Woman in Gold

Truth, Justice, and The American Way.

Review by David Clark

Woman In Gold, a movie inspired by real life events, has a flavor to it that will appeal to some and that will push away others. Starring the ever popular Ryan Reynolds along with Katie Holmes, Helen Mirren, Tatiana Maslany, and Charles Dance, this movie has a lot of star power. At least, it would if the big name actors associated with this movie had the amount of screen-time that the viewing audience was expecting.

Woman In Gold gives a bit of the old bait-and-switch between what the trailers show versus what the actual movie presents. For example, Katie Holmes is a name that might draw fans to this movie; however, she has about as many words in this entire film as she has in the official trailer. The same can be said for Charles Dance. Why enlist household names in a movie and then underutilize their talent? The roles portrayed by Holmes and Dance could have easily been filled by unfamiliar faces and it would not have deterred from the movie in the slightest. If anything, it was distracting to have such famous actors have such small roles.

That is not to say the movie is bad. Ryan Reynolds and Helen Mirren have a great chemistry that develops between the two. The individual growth and friendship on display with the duo will have audiences intrigued one moment and laughing the next. Helen plays a woman named Maria. Maria comes from a long line of Austrian immigrants that fled the country during the second World War. Now an elderly woman in America, she has decided to pursue some of her family's most cherished art work taken by the Nazis. With the help of an unlikely friend named Randol (Ryan Reynolds), Maria will stop at nothing to receive justice for her family. Facing obstacles at every turn this movie is a rollercoaster of cleverly written dialogue and personal growth. Helen's character states in the movie that the story is practically out of a James Bond novel; though that might be a bit of an exaggeration the story is quite compelling. On one side is a struggling lawyer played by Reynolds trying to find his place in the world. On the other side is a woman coming to terms with her past and finding justice in the present. Though, if people are planning on seeing this movie for Ryan and Helen be warned, they too are not in the movie to the extent people might think.

Woman In Gold is really two movies in one. Half of the movie takes place in the 1990s following the characters of Maria and Randol as they pursue their quest for justice. The other half of the movie takes place in the 1940s following a younger version of Helen's character. The younger version of Maria, played by Tatiana Maslany, is attempting to escape from Austria to America. This is a plot point that the press and trailers associated with the movie do a poor job informing people about. This might single handedly be the reason many people walk out disappointed. The trailers depict a movie about Maria (Helen) and Randol (Ryan), yet there are moments in the movie where people might start asking where Maria and Randol went. The movie frequently pulls the audience away from the actors they came to see for long periods of time. Fortunately the half of the movie taking place in the 40s, though unexpected, was done in a manner that looked and sounded authentic.

The plot of the movie, though light-hearted at times, is balanced by moments that are reminders of how tragic the 1940s were in certain parts of the world. During that time period entertainment venues were filled by opera, art, and symphony music. In the early 1900's the Stradivarius instruments were the pinnacle of music and culture. Woman In Gold remembers that era and fills the background with symphonies that rise and fall; broken from time-to-time by the mournful cries of a cello or violin. The music goes a long way towards setting the mood during the dramatic moments.

Taking all things into consideration, if people are capable of looking past the way director Simon Curtis yanks audiences back and forth between decades, this is a good movie. There is excellent character development, the story moves along at a fast pace, and the intrigue will have audiences impatiently waiting to see the conclusion.

Rated PG-13 with a runtime of 109 minutes, Woman In Gold will not disappoint someone going in without expectations. It will entertain if people are in it for the joy of humorous banter, great speeches, and historically grounded narratives. For someone who wants to see their favorite actor or actress hog the screen for two hours, this might not be the right movie.

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