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The Girl Next Door

'Woman In Gold' Review: What the Critics Are Saying

Helen Mirren plays a Jewish refugee battling with the government for a precious family heirloom in this drama based on a real-life story.

The Hollywood Reporter
by Marah Alindogan

Based on a real-life story, Helen Mirren stars in this drama about a Jewish refugee who finds herself in a full-fledged legal battle with the Austrian government to recover a piece of art she believes belongs to her family after it was stolen by the Nazis 60 years prior.

The film is directed by Simon Curtis and features other well-known names including Ryan Reynolds and Katie Holmes.

Read what top critics are saying about Woman In Gold:

The Hollywood Reporter’s David Rooney writes, “This first step into screenwriting for Brit playwright Alexi Kaye Campbell suffers from a general lack of economy and a tendency to spell out its righteous indignation in speechy dialogue, even when the characters aren't at a podium or in a courtroom.”

However, Mirren’s performance is the exception:

“She's first seen speaking at her sister's funeral in Los Angeles in 1998, and instantly, we understand this woman, from her impeccable Euro-chic appearance to her proud bearing to the acerbic edge that suggests her internalized sense of moral outrage. Even Mirren's Austrian accent is crisply understated. With brisk, won't-take-no-for-an-answer efficiency, Maria enlists the help of struggling young lawyer Randy Schoenberg (Ryan Reynolds) to look over papers and see if she has a case to retrieve her family possessions, including the Klimt portrait.”

“Through it all, the ineffably dignified Mirren rises above the occasion, even when the movie abandons restraint to milk her character's legitimate pain and eventual bittersweet triumph for sentiment. It's a moving story of social injustice put right, and it deserves a less heavy-handed retelling.”

The New York TimesStephen Holding also praises Mirren and said her, “portrayal of this sometimes fearsome woman who doesn’t suffer fools is ultimately sympathetic; her chilly reserve and aristocratic manners camouflage a reservoir of feeling. Her dry-eyed performance is the more impressive because the role could so easily have been milked for weepy sentimentality.” However, his opinions differed on the performance of her co-star: “The casting of Mr. Reynolds as Randy is especially unfortunate. Playing a lawyer, this Hollywood lightweight, given glasses to make him look serious, delivers a bland, colorless performance.”

USA Today’s Claudia Puig notes that the movie “lacks luster due to stodgy storytelling.” She also writes the film is “blandly directed by Simon Curtis (My Week with Marilyn), with speechifying and thudding dialogue undermining the extraordinary nature of the tale.” However, she says the movie is saved by, “engaging performances from Mirren and Reynolds, who shine as their characters' relationship deepens.”

Ty Burr of The Boston Globe bluntly writes, “a tale of great art, great crimes, and great perseverance, Woman in Gold is itself rather less than great.”

Washington Post’s Michael O’Sullivan applauds the on-screen chemistry between Reynolds and Mirren as a “one of the film’s small pleasures” that, “adds a bit of crackle to the film.” Yet, he calls out the film’s legal story line as “sluggish and talky.”