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Girl With a Pearl Earring | Review

Old Dutch

Webber paints a nice picture, but not a masterpiece.

Peter Webber decorates his directorial debut with some tempered eroticism, a perfectly cast Scarlett Johansson and an impressive interior production design full of rich, subdued colors which match the browned stained windows, the hard-to-scrub bottoms of blackened, cooper pots and glowing hearts—thematically, colors are abound throughout this canvas but they hardly inspire the conflicted world’s of artist and his maid.

Girl with the Pearl Earring is based on 16th century painter Johannes Vermeer’s famous painting with the girl with the big eyes and luscious lips gets a fictionalized treatment, much like the Tracy Chevalier’s novel, scribe Olivia Hetreed treatment simply alludes to the imaginer, but the finished product is a film which comes across as yet another period piece with nice costumes.

Carrying the load of the picture is the perfect-looking performance from Johansson who gives Griet the ideal pouted and curious look, with budging gripping eyes and the type of candor that appears to come across in girl of the classic painting, however, there are perhaps one too many shots that show her state of curiosity. One shot puts the girl in the famous pose and the similarity is remarkable. Instead of layering her character with emotions and less facial expressions, Webber gives us examples of her life of despair which commences with a blind father, continues with butcher shop excursions and backbreaking workload and ends with a cat and mouse game that starts with a child’s wickedness and ends with a court-like condemnation. The bland, one-dimensional performances in with distracting bad wigs of Colin Firth’s (Love Actually) Vermeer and butcher’s son played by Cillian Murphy (28 Days Later) fail to support the principle character, which is the better of the troupe, but it doesn’t come close to her sound piece of acting in 2003 favorite Lost in Translation .

In a sort of The Rules of the Game account, the first half describes in heavy detail, the class structure system in which the protagonist’s life is devoted to, once Webber begins to open the emotional doors it places the maid in a position of self worth where the possibility for hope is symbolized by the activity of the top floor and advertised with the artist’s brush stroke. The three floor setting could have been better utilized to describe the range of her emotions and that of the painter, unfortunately the pale and allusive sexual air territory where the Dutch master deflowers the girl with an ear piercing sequence and a Ghost-like mixing of the various paint colors bit makes for some laughable situations.

Alexandre Desplat’s score is a soothing touch to the various intersections of the film, while cinematographer Eduardo Serra adds layers to the period piece. Girl with the Pearl Earring is the classic example of a melodrama that feels like a nice watch but unfortunately, the film fails to venture past the paper-thin characterizations and the lack of stimulation in the narrative cheats the film’s proverb of “a picture is worth a thousand words” from actual realization.

Rating 2 stars

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Eric Lavallée is the founder, CEO, editor-in-chief, film journalist and critic at (founded in 2000). Eric is a regular at Sundance, Cannes and TIFF. He has a BFA in Film Studies at the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. In 2013 he served as a Narrative Competition Jury Member at the SXSW Film Festival. He was an associate producer on Mark Jackson's This Teacher (2018 LA Film Festival, 2018 BFI London). In 2022 he served as a New Flesh Comp for Best First Feature at the 2022 Fantasia Intl. Film Festival. Current top films for 2022 include Tár (Todd Field), All That Breathes (Shaunak Sen), Aftersun (Charlotte Wells).

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