In the late 1930’s, life for the Altmann family has its challenges. The rise of anti-Jewish attitudes in the community and the influence of the Nazi regime brings fear and anxiety to many. The Altmann’s live in Vienna in Austria and they do their best to keep their lives as normal as possible. Maria Altmann (played by Tatiana Maslany then Helen Mirren) has a loving family life. Her family shares their home with her Uncle and Aunt. Her Aunt Adele (by Antje Traue) is the most beautiful woman she’s ever seen. Others think so too and when a famous artist paints her portrait, complete with real gold leaf appliqué, it is wonderful and universally applauded. Things in the city become difficult and Maria eventually escapes Vienna and reaches the United States. But she knows the wonderful painting was looted by the Nazis and is now in the hands of the Austrian Government. In one final act of defiance against the oppressive times of her youth, she begins a campaign to return the painting to its rightful owners – her family.
This story is true, which makes it fascinating from the point of view of Maria Altmann’s strength in being able to face the difficult times of her past. However, I found the production quite pedestrian. There’s just not quite enough in it for me. Helen Mirren is not nearly as vibrant here as she can be, with Ryan Reynolds as the co-lead, being equally bland overall. Katie Holmes adds little and others are unremarkable. However, to be fair, story is still told well. Antje Traue, as Aunt Adele, is a truly stunning woman and she even outshines the fabulous jewellery that features in this story. Vienna looks nice and the flashbacks to Maria’s past are well done. It is good to see Elizabeth McGovern hasn’t been typecast as her “Downton Abbey” television character, Cora Crawley. She does a nice job in her cameo here. Overall though, this movie is only average for me.
Made in 2015. Directed by Simon Curtis.