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Film / Woman in Gold

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Woman in Gold is a 2015 drama film starring Helen Mirren and Ryan Reynolds, based on a true story.

In 1938, Maria Altmann, a member of a prominent Jewish family, was forced to flee her homeland of Austria to escape the Nazis. Among the things the Nazis stole was a painting of her aunt, the eponymous The Woman In Gold by Gustav Klimt, one of the few remaining attachments to her family. Half a century later, she hires Randol "Randy" Schönberg, the son of a family friend, to seek litigation to reclaim the painting and make peace with the past.

This Film Contains Examples of the Following Tropes:

  • Artistic License – History:
    • Maria is shown saying goodbye to her parents before fleeing Austria with her husband. In actuality, she refused to leave without her father and fled after he died from natural causes in 1938.
    • The convoluted question that Chief Justice Rehnquist asks was actually asked by Justice David Souter, though the confused reaction is accurate.
    • Hubertus Czernin did not learn about his father's Nazi past until 2006, well after the events of this film.
  • Berserk Button: Maria is insistent that she will not go back to Austria (although she eventually changes her mind) and pointedly refuses to speak German while there. This sort of thinking is Truth in Television among survivors of the Holocaust.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Though Maria wins back the painting, the end credits say that roughly 100,000 works of art stolen by the Nazis have not been returned to their rightful owners.
  • Brick Joke: When Maria and Randy meet, she notes that she has little money and is saving for a new dishwasher. At the end of the film, when he says that she'll earn as much money as she wishes, she says she'll take enough for a new dishwasher.
  • Broken Pedestal: Hubertus Czernin says that he worshipped his father and wanted to be just like him. When he was fifteen, he learned that his father was actually an enthusiastic Nazi supporter.
  • Cool Old Guy: Chief Justice William Rehnquist comes across as this, both gently teasing Randy after asking a (self-admittedly) confusing question to the latter, as well as chiding the Austrian and US government's claims that giving back Maria's painting would somehow destabilize global diplomacy. Considering he is played by Jonathan Pryce, this is somewhat of a given.
  • The Dog Bites Back: Throughout the proceedings, Maria approaches the Austrian officials with reasonable terms, such as allowing Austria to keep the painting but note that it was acquired under illegal circumstances. Once the Austrian arbitrators rule in her favor, one of the officials begs to let the painting stay. She immediately refuses.
  • "Eureka!" Moment: After reaching a dead-end in the proceedings, Randy realizes how they can go further when he sees an art book in an American gift shop that has the painting on the cover.
  • Heel Realization: Randy initially takes the case because of the potential financial reward. He's filled with self-loathing upon visiting the Holocaust Memorial in Vienna and comes to better understand the legacy of the Holocaust, why people like Maria continue to be affected by it, and why it should matter to descendants like himself.
  • Hypocrite: Despite the Austrian officials proudly proclaiming they'll return all stolen artwork to their rightful owners, they constantly refuse to give Maria back the Woman In Gold painting despite it being rightfully hers. Even when Maria approaches them with reasonable terms, they refuse at every opportunity and do their best to hold onto the painting no matter what. Even when Maria ultimately wins once the Austrian arbitrators rule in her favor, one of the officials begs Maria to let the painting stay in Austria. Having enough of their hypocrisy and deliberate refusal to willfully return what's hers by right, Maria outright refuses.
  • Jewish Mother: Maria, towards Randy (even though he's not actually her son).
  • Just Plane Wrong: In the flashbacks, Maria and her husband are shown fleeing Vienna on a Douglas DC-3, rather than a Junkers Ju-52.
  • Only in It for the Money: Randy agrees to take the case after learning that the painting is worth $100 million. However, he has a change of heart once he visits Vienna and witnesses the Holocaust Memorial in Judenplatznote .
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: Maria Altmann actually sued for the return of five Klimt paintings and a family home. The film focused on the portrait of her aunt to emphasize the personal nature of the suit.
  • Precision F-Strike: Randy drops an F-bomb and another swear word in the same sentence after Maria tells him she no longer wants to pursue the lawsuit. This constitutes the only objectionable material in the movie, and was surely done to Avoid the Dreaded G Rating.
  • Rules Lawyer:
    • Randy builds his first case upon the fact that it was Maria's Uncle Frederick who actually paid Gustav Klimt, making him, and not her Aunt Adele, the rightful owner of the paintings, meaning that Adele's bequeathement of her portraits to the Belvedere Gallery is invalid.
    • Randy later invokes a loophole within the American Foreign Sovereigns Immunity Act (the Belvedere Gallery was using the illegally obtained "Woman in Gold" to engage in commercial activity in the US) to sue the Austrian government in the United States (the Austrian government required a prohibitively expensive filing fee to even hear restitution cases). This causes enough of a ruckus for the case to be taken all the way to the US Supreme Court and for the Austrian government to finally hear the case.
  • Smug Snake: The director of the Belvedere museum frequently acts as standoffishly unhelpful to Maria every step of the way.
  • invokedSquick: Invoked. Maria is visibly unnerved as she learns that some of the art from her home adorned the walls of the Berghof, Hitler's alpine residence, and that her aunt's favorite necklace was later worn by Göring's wife.
  • Those Wacky Nazis: Prominently shown in the flashbacks, in all their brutality.