The tedious "Girl with a Pearl Earring" imagines the drab story behind one of Jan Vermeer's most famous paintings.
By DAVID N. BUTTERWORTH
You've probably seen the painting. And you might have read the book (by Tracy Chevalier). Now, thanks to Lion's Gate Films, you can see the movie, a lavish but unnecessary imagining of how Dutch master Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675) might have created his eponymous masterpiece, the one featuring the girl with her hair pulled back off her face by a blue scarf, a pearl earring dangling from her left ear.
"Girl with a Pearl Earring," directed by Peter Webber and starring Colin Firth ("Love Actually") as Vermeer and Scarlett Johansson ("Lost in Translation") as Griet, the astute peasant girl who comes to work in his house and winds up being the model for his most famous canvas, is cinematically assured, delicately scored (by Alexandre Desplat), and features impeccable production design by former Peter Greenaway collaborator Ben van Os.
|GIRL WITH A PEARL EARRING|
|Directed by: Peter Webber.|
Written by: Olivia Hetreed.
Adapted from the novel by: Tracy Chevalier.
Cast: Scarlett Johansson, Colin Firth, Cillian Murphy, Essie Davis, Judy Parfitt, Alakina Mann.
Cinematography: Eduardo Serra.
Music by: Alexandre Desplat.
Related links: Official site | All of David N. Butterworth's reviews at Rotten Tomatoes
But the chemistry between Vermeer, who tends to lurk in the shadows, and Griet, whose interference in the painter's opulent Delft household caused a positive scandal, is like watching paint dry. There's no real sense of the genius at work here, no insight into the artist's craft. It's simply another case of beauty inspiring obsession, as Griet takes an inappropriate interest in the artist's work, understands the effects of light and shadow, and is later taught by Vermeer how to mix hues.
And behind the film's lush trappings exquisite costumes and strategically placed fruit the film belabors its rather obvious point, that the life of a servant girl is not an easy one.
Griet not only suffers the jealous ire of Vermeer's perpetually pregnant wife (an excellent Essie Davis) and condescending mother-in-law (Judy Parfitt, also impressive) but is also felt up by Vermeer's randy patron (Tom Wilkinson). Ultimately the film just languishes like a still life, illustrating neither Vermeer's perspiration nor his inspiration.
|JANUARY 20, 2004|
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