THE WOMAN IN GOLD REVIEW

Woman in Gold new Poster

The Woman in Gold or was it dark blue? Either way, go see it.

Maria Altmann (Helen Mirren), an octogenarian Jewish refugee, takes on the Austrian government to recover artwork she believes rightfully belongs to her family.

FINALLY! I’ve managed to hit a run of good films. YES!

Mirren was superb. A perfect leading lady. Ryan Reynolds was also excellent. It was good to see him play a more subdued role. A normal guy fighting against the ruthless and contradictory Austrian legal system (Or the big guy).

I’m used to watching Reynolds play the same old obnoxious fast talking douche bag archetype. It was a breath of fresh air. Some proper acting from a talented actor (I knew he could. Just check out Buried for proof).

My only niggle was that you could tell the guy doesn’t wear glasses. You’ll know what I mean when you see it. If not, my four eyed brethren will understand.

They were a great pairing. I found the pace dipped a little in parts but it still keep me hooked. The set up took a little too much time to get going but I was distracted by the enigmatic duo as we delve into Maria’s past.

The film isn’t just about a painting. I’m no art lover but I wasn’t impressed by the actual art piece for all it’s controversy. BUT the story behind this cultural icon is something else. An icon that was stolen by the Nazis and never returned to the rightful owner.

Through a series of flashbacks and narration by Mirren, we soon discover the true origins of the renowned Gustav Klimt’s iconic painting of Maria’s aunt, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I. The flashback sequences were riveting, engaging and upsetting.

The treatment of the Jews was handled delicately. We watch as Jews are forced to clean pavements with acid. Shopkeepers made to close their stores and mark JEW on their doors. The public humiliation by bystanders as their locks are cut off by Nazis.

You soon understand why Maria is so adamant not to go back. A place she vowed never to return. Max Irons (The Riot Club) and Tatiana Maslany were also very good.

It was great to see Maslany getting a meatier role on the big screen after her award winning turn in the HIGHLY recommended sleeper hit TV series Orphan Black. She played young Maria brilliantly.

I couldn’t believe how quick the majority of the Austrian community turned against one another. Giving Maria’s family up without hesitation to the Nazis. A good portion of them had attended her wedding only a few days before.

The pace soon picks up as the film flicks back and forth from the past to the present (Well, 90s). The legalities and clauses appeared a little technical but were soon explained. The only problem was once it was explained, I couldn’t believe the difficulty that the pair had to endure just to get a case together.

Stalling tactics from the conniving Austrian officials as they throw ridiculous loopholes and rolls of red tape. It was never about the money for Maria. It was about doing what was right. For family and remembrance.

Maria was even prepared to let the museum keep the portrait but only if they admitted fault. But the officials couldn’t even do that.

It was intriguing watching Randol’s (Reynolds) transformation; a struggling lawyer who took on a case originally for a quick buck. However, the journey he takes with Maria changes everything. His breakdown after visiting the cemetery and Jewish memorials that commemorated his own ancestors really hit home.

The flashbacks, after a nail biting street chase and tense encounter with border patrol, seemed to end a little abruptly. Obviously, it caught up with the present but it would have been nice to know what happened to Maria’s husband after spending a good chunk of time watching him flee from Austria. A passing comment about him from Maria felt a little flat.

The flashbacks did re-appear in the closing minutes and brought a tear as Maria finally opens about the last conversation she had with her parents. A heartbreaking moment between Maria (Maslany) and her father (Allan Corduner) made sure there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

The supporting cast were good, if a little restricted. Katie Holmes played Randol’s wife well. But her character wasn’t really integral to the story and was very much in the background. The only roles she seems to get these days.

Daniel Bruhl was very good as the news journalist desperate to help Maria and Randol. Providing useful advice on the by-laws and using all the contacts at his disposal. It’s great to see him appearing in more mainstream Hollywood flicks. I’ve been a fan since Goodbye Lenin!

Charles Dance (Game of Thrones) had the easiest role going as Randol’s boss. The only thing that stood out for him was his commendable American accent!

The closing trial scenes were not as dramatic as I expected. I anticipated a grand trial with relentless closing arguments not a formal affair with the verdict riding on three art officials in a convention room. But the end result was still uplifting and the closing credits revealed some facts that surprised me.

Despite my little niggles, I still found The Woman in Gold a brilliantly acted and and engaging biopic that is definitely worth your time.

3.5/5

THE RIOT CLUB REVIEW

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Such a riot! Tragically not. Two first-year students at Oxford University join the infamous Riot Club, where reputations can be made or destroyed over the course of a single evening, leading to . . .

A mediocre class satire that had so much potential to be so much more.

To be honest, the concept should have stayed as a play. The adaptation fails to carry itself on the big screen. If not for the prolific British cast attached to this, I don’t think it would have been done at all.

The only actor that will survive this poor affair will be Sam Claflin (Love, Rosie) who was deliciously revolting. His character Alistair Ryle was a perfect panto villain. Camp and vile. It is a shame however that he was very much a stereotype. A snobby toff that “hates poor people”. As if we needed to cement the stereotype further with that. I can’t believe that was actually written in the script.

Max Irons (The Host) played the lead as well as he could but he was terribly bland up until the final 20 minutes in which he finally had a little bit of meat from the script to chew on and do a bit of acting. He was able to share some chemistry with Holliday Grainger (The Borgias) but it’s all so predictable.

BUT Irons was always going to finish second to the rest of the cast comprising of young future British prospects; Douglas Booth (Romeo and Juliet), Ben Schnetzer (Pride) and Sam Reid (Belle).

It does not help that the tone is all over the place. Riding off the Made in Chelsea vibe, the opening act was farcical and terribly OTT as we are given a brief history about the founder of the infamous club, Lord Riot. A genius and a . . . TOTAL LEGEND.

I could feel my hopes for this film fading in an instant. However, the club members did provide enough tomfoolery for a silly but watchable half hour. The initiation sequence had a demented Dead Poets Society feel and I really hoped it was going to keep heading in that direction dealing with the class and society issues within the confines of the school.

The club’s initial introduction and candidate hunt was quite funny. Sam Reid’s overtly flamboyant Hugo chasing after Irons’ Miles for his own intentions. The boozing and sleeping around felt like a mash of Skins meets Made in Chelsea.

However, the tone gets a little bit serious when the club unite to dine. The dinner sequence was a perfect platform to stage a cross-examination of the upper class but it took so long to get going. As tempers rise and more booze and drugs are ingested at the dinner table, things finally begin to bubble up.

There are some tense moments but it’s tough to do a commentary when all the characters are merely stereotypes. It made a change that it wasn’t a piece on hoodies peddling drugs and committing crimes on a council estate but rich spoilt brats poking fun at the working class is just fuel for fire.

I can respect what the writer was trying to say but the characters and the aftermath are exaggerated so theatrically that I can’t take them seriously. I mean at one point the lads are picking at the 10 fowl main course because one bird is missing. Terrible.

They were nothing more than the seven posh dwarves; Dopey, Sleazy, Shouty and Crackhead. The tension soon subsides and leads to complete and utter chaos with relentless destruction (an elongated five minute Extreme Makeover sequence that was beyond overkill) and a predictable twist.

Jessica Brown-Findlay (Downton Abbey) played the waitress as well as she could but it was a wasted role. Anyone could have played her. She merely scowled and had the odd jibe back at the posh plebs.

The alluring Natalie Dormer (Game of Thrones) had the easiest cameo going. Her character was nothing more than a catalyst to fuel the tempers of horny, drug induced toffs in the form of a misled escort.

My quip besides playing on the mainstream red band papers and hyping up stereotypes was that there wasn’t enough story for me. The idea of them discussing their views during a dinner had potential. BUT it’s goes from nothing to everything.

It was too slow, the characters were un-relatable and it ended oh so predictably and lazily with the usual commentary that the rich get away with anything, apparently. Hardly a spoiler. After the dinner incident, I thought there was potential for a suspenseful stand off as the gang begin to give each other up. BUT it’s wrapped up within minutes so flatly and easily. Disappointing.

I predict a riot for people heading towards the door.

2/5