Film review: Girl with a Pearl Earring (2003), directed by Peter Webber
It’s in the Past, in the Netherlands to be precise, and Griet (Scarlett Johansson) is a young woman whose family is really rather poor. She’s sent to be a servant in the Vermeer household, where the wife Catharina (Essie Davis) keeps being pregnant, even though they aren’t exactly loaded either, and her husband Johannes (Colin Firth) is busy painting his, well, paintings. When he realises Griet actually takes an interest in his work and Understands His Art, he starts to teach her a few things about paints and lets her help out. Catharina thinks he’s having an affair, especially when Vermeer starts painting Griet’s portrait, gets jealous and has a hissy fit. (That’s technically a spoiler, but y’know …)
Meanwhile, Griet meets the butcher’s boy Pieter (Cillian Murphy) and they get on like a house on fire, and the creepy rich man (Tom Wilkinson) who orders Vermeer’s paintings and might or might not be paying Griet’s wages (I’m a bit fuzzy on that one, to be honest), is creepy. Shout out: Anna Popplewell (Susan of Narnia) as a sulky girl with very little screen time and even fewer lines … if any.
I’ve been looking forward to watching Girl with a Pearl Earring for some time now, and I have to say I was disappointed. Sure, it was a well-made film and all, but I was expecting there to be some sort of romance going on with Griet and Vermeer – that’s exactly the impression given by the DVD cover. Should I bother giving a spoiler warning here? Because by the phrasing, you should already know what I’m about to say anyway. 😛
Yeah, it didn’t deliver. Vermeer does paintings, Griet becomes one of his most famous ones, Mrs. Vermeer kicks her out and Griet lives happily ever after with Pieter. Big whoop-tee-do. They never even kiss. The most bold move is that he asks her to take her headgear off – wow, be still my heart.
And that’s what I don’t like about it. Also, if I had been into art and known my Vermeer from my Rembrandt, I would probably have enjoyed it more, as apparently the colour scheme of the film is made to mimick that of his paintings, and you get to see other paintings of his being made. So from that perspective, even if it’s fictional, it’s enjoyable. From the “hey, I was expecting a love story here!” perspective, it was a disappointment. Have to say that it was fairly forgettable as a film too, unless you count Colin Firth’s swoonworthy gaze and his silent, arty ways.
3.4 out of 5 mouths too feed.