As a film, Bill Condon’s ‘The Good Liar’ is pretty tepid. It’s a so-so thriller, a lukewarm comedy, and you just know it’s source material is probably much better than the film. But the film has two great weapons that make it worth your while – Sir Ian McKellen and Helen Mirren. It’s delight to see these two spar against each other, as they make the most mundane watchable. So never mind that there are big holes in the plot, just enjoy the film for the performances.
There are actors who elevate a film just by their mere presence in them. Helen Mirren is one of them. As Maria Altmann in “Woman In Gold,” she gives everything she’s got in her role, yet the performance still seems subtle, and subdued. Altman is a famous case from the late 90s when she sued the Austrian government for stealing paintings from her family, most notably Gustav Klimt’s “Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I,” which is a portrait of her aunt. (It was settled by Austrian arbitration after getting as high as the United States Supreme Court) I have got to say that I was riveted by the movie/ Director Simon Curtis keeps the pacing fast, and you follow every single part of the case. This is a perfect summer movie with a lot of action and emotion. I was so there in every way. It was suspenseful, engaging, and emotionally rewarding, kind of like a action blockbuster. Then I realize that the screenplay is a bit manipulative (the flashbacks really hammer the sentimentality) and you don’t really get a broader picture of the case. The bad guys are really bad (oooh those Nazis!) and the good guys are angelic. Surely, the Austrians aren’t as bad a people as they are portrayed in this film? Ryan Reynolds as her lawyer is such a lightweight actor that Mirren steals every scene from him, even when she does as much as raise her eyebrow. The film does a great job of showcasing the city of Vienna, and I was reminded of how beautiful a city it is. And, it made me want to see the painting itself, which is housed at Nueue Gallery in New York City, after being acquired by the Lauders from Altmann. (oops – was that a spoiler?) “Woman In Gold” is worth a watch, in my opinion, if only to see an living legend liek Helen Mirren in action. Just don’t take it too seriously.