One wishes Girl With A Pearl Earring (2004) were better.
The great Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer takes a shine to a new servant girl named Griet, but their relationship is chaste. He has her aid him in his work, instructs her somewhat about art, and makes her the model for his “Girl With A Pearl Earring” painting. Vermeer’s materialistic wife is scandalized, wild with jealousy. But this first film by Peter Webber induces to me to ask: Why, really, does the Dutch master befriend Griet? The story I have just described is absurd; how can we be expected to swallow it? Indeed, the Vermeer-Griet relationship is not even compellingly drawn. Screenwriter Olivia Hetreed, adapting the Tracy Chevalier novel, underwrites it, as it were, providing scant flavor. And how is Vermeer able to love a revolting wife who has no interest at all in his work?
The film is no masterpiece, although possibly Eduardo Serra’s cinematography is. Formally it is reminiscent of, and as sublime as, Vermeer’s art. Lighting evokes everything from placidity to menace, and Serra agreeably stays away from European melancholy. The dandy cast consists of Colin Firth, Scarlett Johansson and Essie Davis among others. Handsome Firth makes Vermeer as likable as he is imperfect and brilliant.