Not Quite On The Nose

Dr. A and I saw Woman In Gold the other day. It tells the surefire story of how a legendary Gustav Klimt painting and its rightful owner were reunited some sixty years after it was stolen by the Nazis from the family’s Vienna home. Most of the movie is quite good, and Helen Mirren is brilliant as, once again, an epic battleaxe, Maria Altmann. The script is strong on *why* Austria remains so squirrelly about its Nazi past and role in the Shoah: they were treated like a conquered people instead of willing participants in the crimes of the Third Reich.

Woman In Gold is very strong in its depiction of the terrifying anti-Semitism that afflicted the Bloch-Bauer family in Vienna. The casting of Ryan Reynolds as Randol Schoenberg, Mirren’s lawyer, is problematical. Much is made of the fact that he’s the great composer Arnold Schoenberg’s grandson, which *is* an interesting point. It led me, however, to spend part of the movie staring at Ryan Reynolds’ button nose. Arnold Schoenberg had a large, magnificent nose that I would call a honker as does the real Randy Schoenberg.

Other than the nose, Reynolds was decent in the role, but the whole thing reminded me of the difference between a movie star and an actor. Reynolds put on glasses, wore ill fitting suits, and acted generally geeky but was unwilling to go all the way and wear a stage nose. Orson Welles wore a fake nose for almost every role, so I thought of him when contemplating the nasal aspect of Woman In Gold. He would have asked Reynolds: do you want to be a movie star or an actor? I think we know the answer.

Despite a script that sounded at times like a circa 1938 Warner Brothers melodrama, Woman In Gold is a good movie. I’d give it 3 stars, a Ebertian thumbs up, and an Adrastos grade of B.

We saw the film at the Prytania Theatre, which is celebrating its 100th Anniversary as a movie theatre. It’s one of the few single screen neighborhood theatres left in the country. We went to a weekday matinee and there was a bus full of elderly folks from an Uptown retirement community in attendance as well. As I waited in the lobby for Dr. A after the show, I heard an old, presumably Jewish, lady declare: “No Jew has a nose like that young man who played the lawyer.”

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