DRAMA; 1hr 49min
STARRING: Helen Mirren, Ryan Reynolds, Daniel Brühl, Katie Holmes
Gold standard: Mirren and Reynolds
Art restitution is a lit fuse. For Austrian-American Maria Altmann (Tatiana Maslany as a young woman, Mirren in later life), the fight for the return of the 1907 Gustav Klimt portrait of her aunt Adele Bloch-Bauer will also be a memory bridge between then and now. Like thousands of other artworks, the painting was stolen by the Nazis. When Maria and her greenhorn lawyer, Randy Schoenberg (a largely uninspiring Reynolds), in 1998 begin their protracted battle for it and four other paintings, it hangs in Vienna’s Belvedere Palace, where Austrian authorities are determined to keep it.
The painting is magnificent, its gilded waterfall highlighting Adele’s aristocratic beauty. It’s also valued at $100 million-plus. But for Maria, who lives modestly in Los Angeles, money isn’t the issue. The portrait of Adele represents the loss of her family, her heritage and the city from which she was forced to flee. Paralleling the past with the present, director Simon Curtis’s historical spin has a heavily beating heart, its doughy texture leavened, thank God, by the impassioned yet playful Mirren. Her motherly lightness of touch is a saving grace in an otherwise painful process.