April 1, 2015, - 5:32 pm

“Woman In Gold”: Charming, Funny, Touching Movie About Nazi-Looted Art & Getting It Back

By Debbie Schlussel

Helen Mirren should win the Oscar for her portrayal of Maria Altmann in “Woman In Gold,” which debuts in movie theaters today.


Whether or not you are into art or history, you will likely enjoy the charming, witty, funny, and touching movie about the real-life Altmann’s fight to get back her family’s beloved painting, stolen by the Nazis during the Holocaust. And, as a practicing attorney, I don’t usually say that movies get it regarding the ups and downs and legal niceties of the courts. This movie does that and more. It’s a thriller, a slice of history, and a study in a nerd–lawyer Randol Schoenberg (Ryan Reynolds), who courageously steps up to the plate–risking everything to do what’s right.

Altmann came from a prominent, wealthy Austrian Jewish family during the Holocaust. She and her opera singer husband escaped and ultimately settled in Los Angeles, but her parents and all of their belongings were taken from them. Among those was a famous painting by renowned artist Gustav Klimt, entitled “Adele Bloch-Bauer I.” The painting, featuring gold paint, is also known as “Lady in Gold.” Adele, the woman in the painting, was Mrs. Altmann’s aunt, and Mrs. Altmann wants the looted painting (and four other looted Klimt paintings owned by her family) back. But Austria and the Austrian gallery that possesses the painting want to keep it. Lawyer Schoenberg is a struggling young lawyer with a new family. He is the grandson of Austrian composer Arnold Schoenberg, and his grandmother and Mrs. Altmann were best friends. At first, he is resistant to taking the daunting case–fighting a foreign government and its army of lawyers, potentially all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court (which is where it ends up). But he takes the case and risks and nearly loses everything to pursue it.

Mirren and Reynolds are great in this movie and they have terrific chemistry in this platonic love story. Her portrayal of a feisty European Jewish woman displaced by the Nazis reminds me of many such women who were friends with my Holocaust survivor grandparents and went to our synagogue. A de-glammed, nerded-up Reynolds is almost unrecognizable and he definitely does well in capturing the nerdy, studious, hungry, underdog lawyer in his portrayal.

The movie flashes back and forth between the past–at the beginning of the Holocaust–and the present, during Altmann’s and Schoenberg’s legal fight, which takes them back and forth to Austria, where they are helped by a young Austrian journalist. The movie makes much of Mrs. Altmann’s old age and that she may not live to see the outcome of her legal fight. And that is clearer in real life. Helen Mirren is 69 years old, but Altmann was nearly 90 when her litigation was resolved.

The flashbacks in the movie accurately capture the attitude of Jews like the Bloch-Bauers. They were JINOs–Jews In Name Only. As wealthy, secular Jews, they mistakenly thought they were part of Austrian high society. They really had little to do with the Jewish religion and were in denial that the Nazis would target them like the other Jews. In fact, as they watch their Jewish friends and neighbors being beaten, humiliated, and otherwise brutalized by the Nazis on a Saturday afternoon (which is the Jewish Sabbath), Maria’s father insists on playing his treasured cello, as he does every Saturday afternoon. As Maria’s uncle–the husband of the woman in the Klimt portrait–warns, they must all leave. When Maria’s father finally faces the music, it is too late for him.

This movie is entertaining, educational, and well done. I wasn’t bored for a second.

Nazis are the betes noires of Hollywood liberal elites, as they should be. I doubt, though, that in 40 years Hollywood will have the courage to show others fighting for the property that the modern-day Nazis–Muslims–looted from them all over the Middle East. I also doubt the courts will find in their favor.


Watch the trailer . . .

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17 Responses

I recall seeing this case in the news. The Government of Austria and the gallery acted horribly. Maria Altmann was a remarkable woman in that she would not let people off of the hook.

Worry on April 1, 2015 at 8:43 pm

Something from the Gustav Klimt Era: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBWxcT1FDEk

Worry on April 1, 2015 at 8:46 pm

I must disagree with you, Debbie. I think in 40 years we will have beaten the Islamists and the scumbag Liberals will be shown to be the swine that they are.

Unfortunately, this will only occur after a WMD attack on US soil that makes 9/11 look small.

But wait until the Alabamans take over!

Occam's Tool on April 1, 2015 at 10:16 pm

    Unfortunately, this will only occur after a WMD attack on US soil that makes 9/11 look small.

    Not sure the outcome would be much different than the effects of 9/11 except on a larger scale, to wit, more muslims, more mosques, more bowing and scraping to islam.

    DS_ROCKS! on April 2, 2015 at 12:21 am

I was reading and moved by the story of a courageous Egyptian Muslim woman, who now lives in Israel.

She was arrested, interrogated, tortured and accused of being a Zionist and an Israeli spy – all because she identified with the Jewish people from her identification with Israel as the Jewish homeland that she had read about in the Koran.

Nora Hadad told her persecutors:

“During the interrogations, I was accused of the heinous crime of supporting Zionism,” Noha said. “If being a Zionist is saying that the Land Of Israel belongs to the Israelites — then the Quran is Zionist. The sheikhs know this but prefer to use their own misleading interpretation. From 1999 until my escape in 2011, I never backed down from Israel issue. I heard the things being said in the Arab World promoting the murder of Jews and I did everything I could to expose the truth: Even according to Islam, Israel is not an occupier. When I arrived in Israel I felt the ‘exodus from Egypt.’ I was there, I went through being shackled and tortured, and I got to experience for myself the miracle of freedom.”

Its a remarkable story of a courageous, moral and decent person, who by the way, is a nuclear physicist. Why would a Muslim Arab live in Israel of all the countries in the world? Those who know the truth are set free by it and this is the meaning of Passover.

Of course, it should be stressed her views are atypical in her own anti-Semitic country and in the Arab World. G-d would have spared Sodom and Gomorrah had one righteous person merited to live in it. And Israel is blessed by her presence.

NormanF on April 2, 2015 at 12:52 am


    If I’m not mistaken, G-d would have spared Sodom and Gomorrah had TEN righteous PERSONS merited to live in it.

    That was the line in the sand, no?

    Adam Taxin on April 2, 2015 at 9:50 am

      He would have spared them for the sake of ONE righteous person as He spared the world for the sake of Noah.

      There were not ten, not even a single righteous person in the Cities On The Plain and that is why they were obliterated.

      Ten is a perfect number, a whole number – but the point is G-d’s mercy requires repentance and a return to Him, not about the minimum number of people who could be spared.

      NormanF on April 2, 2015 at 12:12 pm

It’s interesting that 53% of the supposedly professional movie critics at Rotten Tomatoes give this a “fresh,” but 84% of the mass gives it this rating.

The Jew-hating NYT gives it a “rotten.” Debbie litigates; the reviewer doesn’t. But this reviewer thinks Reynolds fails.

Nina Dead Mountain at PBS also thinks the court scene at the SC is unrealistic, but does review the movie positively

skzion on April 2, 2015 at 6:36 am

… name dropping all the while.

On the bright side, the mass has done a better job than the elite.

skzion on April 2, 2015 at 6:38 am

    Garissa University attacked in northern Kenya.

    More Islamic love and brotherhood.

    Al-Shaabab Islamic terrorists stormed the campus, killed Christians and freed Muslims.

    70 dead.

    I don’t know, must be one of those random shooting encounters where the identity of the victims is obscure.

    NormanF on April 2, 2015 at 12:57 pm

If you are interested in seeing the painting The Woman in Gold in person, read this post. After Ms. Altman got her aunt’s painting back, she sold it to the Great Jewish Supporter of Israel and Supporter of all Jewish Causes and Great Philanthropist, former U.S. Ambassador to Austria, Ronald Lauder (his mother was Estee Lauder the cosmetics legend) for $150,000,000. Mr. Lauder in association with the Metropolitan Museum of Art has his own museum called the Neue Galerie. Its on Museum Mile in Manhattan (upper Fifth Ave.). If you want to see the painting, it will be on exhibit along with other Klint masterpieces starting this Sunday. I am going on Sunday. Mr. Lauder purchased the mansion where the museum is located and its a perfect setting to see works of art. Last year I saw the exhibit on Degenerate Art and Nazi Art (to show the inferiority of the Fuhrer’s taste in Art). That was magnificent. For more information, check out the Museum’s website. http://www.neuegalerie.org If you have not been to NYC, take the time if just to see this exhibit.

Susan on April 2, 2015 at 9:17 am

    Thaks for the info on Neue Galerie. I will go there. Looks like an Interesting &educational place. Not sure How I feel about the early 20th century Viennese &German focus…..but would love to see the painting. Interesting that children are not welcome. But have some old enough to go.
    Pastries look very fattening……

    Crzycatkid on April 5, 2015 at 9:10 am

Iran is laughing all the way to the bank.

Sanctions to be lifted, it gets to keep its nuclear infrastructure intact, no oversight, reward for Iranian aggression/terrorism/genocidal threats against Israel.

No wonder Javid Zarif is laughing and Obama is trying to spin the US surrender to Iran as “peace in our time.”

Nice deal, if you can get it.

NormanF on April 2, 2015 at 3:40 pm

Mirren is a very good actress. Alas, she is also an anti-American, limey leftist.

FZ: I had no idea. Can you please elaborate? DS

Felipe Zapata on April 2, 2015 at 3:46 pm

Felipe Zapata summed up my thoughts on Helen Mirren. I really love her acting. I have since “The Cook, The Theif, His Wife & Her Lover”. Now that movie is NOT for everyone. It was so different and raw so that is prolly why I love it (I do love most films of Pom director Peter Greenaway…he’s beyond strange…). When it first came out heaps of people walked out after the 1st ten minutes because the opening scene is so cruel and nasty but I don’t know why I loved it so much. Prolly because I have never shied away from how evil people can be. I can handle people’s cruelty more than glorified porn.

And of course I was a huge fan when the “Prime Suspect” series came out. Too bad about her politics. BTW, I just found out the Pom actor who played “The Thief” (& her hubby) in the film (who also is a separated by birth for Michael Savage, LOLOL…) Michael Gambon has TWO families…an old cuckold wife and some sweet, young thing he has a kid with. People really are disgusting!

Skunky on April 2, 2015 at 6:06 pm

Helen Mirren four years ago co-starred as a Nazi-hunter in “The Debt,” an American version of an Israeli film. She was excellent as always (as was Jessica Chastain, who played Mirren’s younger self), so I think I’ll see this one, too.

Primetime on April 2, 2015 at 9:40 pm

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