This true story about Maria Altman’s quest to recover fine art stolen from her family by the Nazis in WWII is quietly playing in most movie theaters at the moment.
Helen Mirren is Maria, when she was in her 80’s decided to recover some of the art, mainly her family’s five Gustav Klimt paintings. The most famous painting, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I, was hanging in the Belvedere Gallery in Vienna when Maria her quest begins. The Austrian government maintained that the picture wasn’t stolen, but had been willed to them by Maria’s aunt, Adele Bloch-Bauer.
Randy Schoenberg, played by Ryan Reynolds, escaped the Nazis and had family ties in Austria. He is sent by his mother to help out an old family friend, Maria Altman. The film focuses on their growing relationship and on Schoenberg’s realization that he suffers like the holocaust survivors and wants their family possessions returned to them.
Schoenberg eventually gets to argue in from of the U.S. Supreme Court for the right to sue Austria for the return of the paintings. It was fun to look at that court and recognize some of the Justices; like William Rehnquist and Sandra Day O’Connor.
The film slowly and quietly tells an amazing story. The actors are good in their parts. Critics have said it should have been a bit livelier, and that is a valid point, but most of us have seen enough of what the Nazis did when they took over a country and rounded up the Jews to go to the camps.
There are lots of flashbacks to show what Altman’s life was like in Vienna prior to Hitler and it was a grand life. The family had worked hard and become very successful. Their home was filled with art, music, books, and gracious parties.
They, like so many of their fellow Jews, lost everything to the Nazis. One gets a little angry with the Austrians and their sly maneuverings to keep the treasures that don’t belong to them.
There are some beautiful scenes and lines about letting go of the past, but to always remember your people. Remembering who you are and whom you come from is the Jewish essence in this film. You feel a quiet pride for Maria and for Randy when the film ends.
Stay and read the endnotes to see what became of these valiant warriors. The film is suitable for all ages, but young children will be bored, but 12 and up should begin to learn this sad segment of the Jewish history. If you’re looking for another good film for youngsters to see about this time in history, I recommend THE BOOK THIEF—excellent film for everyone.
***Coming soon: Fandango Events is hosting with TCM another set of 6 movies that have been re-mastered and will play on the next 6 Sunday’s at 2 and then on Wednesdays at 2 and at 7. TOOTSIE is showing next Sunday. This to me is a comic genius of a film and on Mother’s Day, STEEL MAGNOLIA’S; get your Kleenex out. Both are worthy of seeing again and if for some reason, you’ve never seen either; get yourself to the show!
I hope LITTLE BOY and THE AGE OF ADALINE will come here. They both look intriguing and George Clooney has a Disney movie coming in May called TOMORROWLAND. The usual loud and crashing super hero movies are coming too, but they remain much the same in plot as they are driven by their special effects.