Woman in Gold Helen Mirren, Ryan Reynolds, Tatiana Maslany. Directed by Simon Curtis. Rated PG-13. Opens Friday.
It’s a little early for awards season, but Woman in Gold has all the hallmarks of prime Oscar bait: It’s based on the inspiring true story of Maria Altmann, an Austrian Jew who fled the Nazis during World War II and in the late 1990s battled in court to reclaim five Gustav Klimt paintings that the Nazis stole from her family. Oscar winner and beloved icon Helen Mirren plays Maria as a combination of sassy grandma and hardened survivor, and Ryan Reynolds attempts to stretch his serious-acting muscles as the lawyer who takes her case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Altmann’s story is stirring and complex, but the filmmakers smooth it out and simplify it, padding it with generic WWII flashbacks and making every courtroom battle into a clichéd, heavy-handed triumph. In pursuit of prestige, it loses the qualities that make the story worth telling.