While Helen Mirren elevates the material with her usual aplomb and the events being depicted inevitably are stirring, this is a stodgy crusade-for-justice drama, directed and written with minimal flair.
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Is it fair to make Woman in Gold representative of the failings of the whole historical-true-story-designed-to-remind-an-older-skewing-middle-class-white-audience-that-people-have-triumphed-over-adversity genre? Perhaps not, but as one of its most egregious and fallacious examples, it's as good a line to draw in the sand as any.
Though perhaps lacking in a real sense of dramatic tension; veering towards the schmaltzy at times and needing a far tighter ending, Woman In Gold is still a thoroughly enjoyable story, engagingly told and with a nice line in gentle humour to balance the legal battle structure which can veer to dryness at times.
The film evades all but the most careful commonplaces about the relationship between the viewer and the work of art at its center.
This is manufactured sentiment, less interested in provoking thought than in manipulating emotion, constructed of human obstacles overcome, stirring speeches delivered and heart-rending flashbacks unveiled, all suspended like so much Spam in the jelly of its own score.
Simon Curtis’ Woman in Gold is a shamelessly sentimental fictionalization of this true story, but it’s a fascinating story nonetheless, beautifully photographed and greatly elevated by a brilliant performance from the invaluable Helen Mirren.
What Woman in Gold has over nonfiction portrayals is emotion, and director Simon Curtis (My Week With Marilyn) milks every scene for its heart-tugging potential.
Apart from Ms. Mirren’s performance, Woman in Gold smugly and shamelessly pushes familiar buttons.
Director Simon Curtis and first-time screenwriter Alexi Kaye Campbell constantly push too hard and too forcefully, laying on schmaltz where none is needed.
The film seems to think the mere presence of Mirren as a wisecracking widow will be enough for us to forgive it a multitude of sins.