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Woman in Gold Blu-ray Review

Woman in Gold (2015) movie poster Woman in Gold

Theatrical Release: April 1, 2015 / Running Time: 109 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: Simon Curtis / Writers: Alexi Kaye Campbell (screenplay); E. Randol Schoenberg, Maria Altmann (life stories)

Cast: Helen Mirren (Maria Altmann), Ryan Reynolds (Randol Schoenberg), Daniel Brühl (Hubertus Czernin), Katie Holmes (Pam Schoenberg), Tatiana Maslany (Young Maria Altmann), Max Irons (Fritz Altmann), Charles Dance (Sherman), Antje Traue (Adele Bloch-Bauer), Elizabeth McGovern (Judge Florence-Marie Cooper), Jonathan Pryce (Chief Justice William Rehnquist), Frances Fisher (Barbara Schoenberg), Moritz Bleibtreu (Gustav Klimt), Tom Schilling (Heinrich), Allan Corduner (Gustav Bloch-Bauer), Henry Goodman (Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer)

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Even though it is primarily set more than fifty years after the end of World War II,
Woman in Gold could be classified as a Holocaust movie. The specter of that ugly chapter in European history hangs over this drama based on true events.

In 1998 Los Angeles, aging Austrian Jew Maria Altmann (Helen Mirren) enlists the services of Randy Schoenberg (Ryan Reynolds), a fledgling young lawyer also of Austrian heritage, to help her with an old international dispute. The Adele of Gustav Klimt's 1907 painting "Portrait of Adele" is Maria's dear aunt who died many decades ago. Valued at over $100,000, the iconic painting hangs on display at the Belvedere Gallery in the nation of its origin. Maria believes the artwork rightfully belongs to her family. Austria disagrees.

In "Woman in Gold", Maria Altmann (Helen Mirren) and Randy Schoenberg (Ryan Reynolds) take legal action against the Austrian government in a drawn-out art restitution case.

Maria reluctantly agrees to return to Vienna for the first time since fleeing the Nazis in the 1940s. There, Randy, in way over his head, pleas for ownership of the painting to go to Maria. Disputing the legality of Adele's will (which stated a preference for gallery display in Austria), Randy finds grounds to file a lawsuit in the United States, which he does. The deep-pocketed Austrian government strikes back, escalating the matter to the Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, a number of flashbacks take us back to Austria during the War as a young Maria (Tatiana Maslany) and her husband (Max Irons) attempt to escape the heavy religious persecution they face.

Woman in Gold reminds the viewer a great deal of Philomena. Like that Academy Award-nominated 2013 British drama, this one pairs a sassy, slightly eccentric older woman with a younger man on an overseas trip, both determined to solve an old mystery and uphold justice. Maria's dilemma, however, isn't quite the investable personal one that Philomena's was. This film tries to punch up the legal battle with suspenseful action scenes of shaking off Nazis, but we're never fully involved or left wondering. The art restitution case is largely a matter of principle, with a change of ownership unable to undo past wrongs or dramatically change Maria's life.

In a 1940s flashback, the young Maria Altmann (Tatiana Maslany) and her husband (Max Irons) fear an obstacle as they are about to board a plane for Cologne, France.

Mirren is good in the lead role, as she typically is. There may have been a temptation to caricature the part, but she wisely resists it. Reynolds, on the other hand, is quite bland in what is to be the more identifiable lead. This is not his kind of movie and not just because he has avoided or not been offered it in the past.
Woman in Gold agreeably does inject some gentle humor to lighten up the near-contemporary courtroom scenes, giving judges played by Elizabeth McGovern and Jonathan Pryce a touch more than authoritative exposition. The cast also includes Spanish-German actor Daniel Brühl (Rush, Inglourious Basterds) as a patriotic Austrian journalist lending some support to Maria's cause and Mirren's Teaching Mrs. Tingle co-star Katie Holmes in the thankless role of Randy's always-pregnant wife.

Mirren's name along with a description of the factual plot might make you expect Woman in Gold to be Oscar fodder, particularly with The Weinstein Company distributing. The movie's April Fool's Day opening in North America makes clear that awards were not in the cards, despite director Simon Curtis having earned two acting Oscar nominations on his slightly better previous Weinstein/BBC film, 2011's My Week with Marilyn.

Though it divided critics right down the middle, Woman in Gold seemed to fare well with the general public. It opened in seventh place from a limited theater count and held onto that slot in its second weekend expansion en route to respectable hauls of $33 million domestic and $49 million worldwide on a budget of just $11 M. The movie reached home video this week from The Weinstein Company and their home video partner Anchor Bay Entertainment in a DVD and the Blu-ray + Digital HD edition reviewed here.

Woman in Gold Blu-ray + Digital HD cover art - click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

2.39:1 Widescreen
5.1 DTS-HD MA (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 (Spanish)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Video Extras Subtitled in English
Release Date: July 7, 2015
Suggested Retail Price: $34.99
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (BD-50)
Blue Keepcase
Also available on DVD ($29.98 SRP) and Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

Woman in Gold has a classical style, utilizing the wide 2.39:1 aspect ratio with selective focus compositions. The Blu-ray's picture quality is expectedly strong, with the clean element and vivid colors leaving nothing to be desired. Complementing the tasteful visuals is a serviceable 5.1 DTS-HD master audio soundtrack. Throughout, sporadic German dialogue is translated by default secondary English subtitles; pick Spanish and it does the same in that language.

The real Maria Altmann, who passed away in 2011, is heard in the making-of featurette's excerpts from the 2007 documentary "Stealing Klimt." Ronald Lauder, the son of Estée, speaks alongside Klimt's Woman in Gold, a painting he spent $135 million to acquire.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

Bonus features begin with an audio commentary by director Simon Curtis and producer David M. Thompson.

They give good screen-specific information about the film and the real story on which it's based. It's pretty ordinary stuff, likely only of interest to commentary fans who enjoyed the film.

On the video side, where all is in HD unless otherwise noted, we start with "The Making of Woman in Gold" (23:41), one of Weinstein's standard, satisfying, substantial EPK-style featurettes. With talking heads, clips, and behind-the-scenes, we learn both about the history and the film dramatizing it. A nice bonus is we hear from the real Maria Altmann courtesy of excerpts of the kindred 2007 documentary Stealing Klimt.

Next and exclusive to Blu-ray, a March 2015 press conference at the Neue Galerie in New York (10:38) celebrates the film and the painting at its heart, which it exhibits after being acquired by Estee Lauder's son, who is the second to speak here after director Renée Price.

Finally, we get an SD trailer for the aforementioned Stealing Klimt (2:39).

The Blu-ray opens with trailers for The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (presumably, Fox reciprocated on that sequel's disc), The Imitation Game, and Philomena. None of these is accessible by the menu and no Woman in Gold trailers are included at all.

An ordinary top menu places listings under a routine montage of clips. In what seems to finally end Weinstein's long, unfortunate streak, the Blu-ray gladly resumes unfinished playback of the film.

An insert with Digital HD directions and code is all that joins the full-color disc inside the standard blue keepcase.

Maria Altmann (Helen Mirren) makes an impassioned plea before the Kunst Restitutions Committee for Klimt's "Portrait of Adele" to be restored to the family of its subject.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Woman in Gold has less impact than it would like to, but it still proves to be an enjoyable drama and another good outlet for Helen Mirren's talents. The fine audio/video, making-of featurette, and commentary add up to a satisfactory release of a satisfactory film that warrants a look.

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Related Reviews:
Directed by Simon Curtis: My Week with Marilyn
Helen Mirren: The Hundred-Foot JourneyThe QueenThe Last StationTeaching Mrs. TingleArthur (2011)
Ryan Reynolds: BuriedThe ProposalAdventureland | Daniel Brühl: The Fifth Estate | Charles Dance: The Imitation Game
PhilomenaDanny CollinsMcFarland, USASaving Mr. Banks | Lawyers: AmistadThe VerdictThe Firm

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Reviewed July 9, 2015.



Text copyright 2015 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2015 The Weinstein Company, BBC Films, Origin Pictures, The Weinstein Company Home Entertainment and Anchor Bay Entertainment.

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