Mirren glitters but film not gold

Helen Mirren and Ryan Reynolds.
Helen Mirren and Ryan Reynolds.

DAME Helen Mirren can do no wrong.

She is the kind of talent that can lift an average film and keep us glued to the screen when everything around her is falling apart.

Her performance in the uneven Woman in Gold is by far the best thing about it.

Elderly Los Angeles resident Maria Altmann (Mirren), who was forced to flee Austria and the Nazis during World War II and is still haunted by the ordeal, hires inexperienced and down-on-his-luck lawyer Randol Schoenberg (Ryan Reynolds) to recover art from the Austrian government.

A beautiful portrait of Maria�s aunty, named Woman in Gold, was stolen by the Nazis in the 1940s, hung in a gallery and has since become part of Austrian art culture.

Altmann and Schoenberg meet resistance from the Austrian government, who will not negotiate over the now extremely valuable artwork, and must overcome several legal hurdles put in their path.

This David and Goliath battle with gorgeously filmed flashbacks has whiffs of Erin Brockovich but without the fierce and feisty wit.

Also unlike that Julia Roberts vehicle, Woman in Gold likes to tell us things but rarely takes the time to show us.

The strain the case puts on Schoenberg�s relationship with this wife Pam (Katie Holmes in an immensely underwritten role) and their young family is glossed over, much like many details in the legal process of this supposedly unwinnable case, forgoing half the story in this fascinating tale.

Regardless, there are some moving moments to this story sure to leave audiences reaching for the tissues.

As the woman who is still battling her demons, Mirren is sensational, demonstrating the exhausting guilt that has festered for years over leaving her family behind and bitterness towards her motherland.

Woman in Gold (M)

Directed by: Simon Curtis

Starring: Helen Mirren, Ryan Reynolds, Daniel Br�hl

Three stars

Review by: Julian Wright

In cinemas now