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Movie Review: Girl With a Pearl Earring

Alternative Title: For fans, Double Dutch Treat -- for detractors, Like Watching Paint Dry.

Story: Novelist Tracy Chevalier was inspired to write her best selling book after studying Johannes Vermeer's painting of the same name. It is fiction and should be treated as such. Very little is known about Vermeer and perhaps an artists' legacy should just be reflected in his work -- not his politics, lifestyle or excesses. First time director Peter Webber, with a screenplay by Olivia Hetreed and visually stunning camera work by Eduardo Serra nail 17th century Delft as I imagined it was (although it was filmed in Luxembourg).

The film is very slow moving and the novel has been pared down dramatically (some fans of the book might be disappointed in this). Because of her family's misfortunes, young Griet is forced to go to work as a maid in the household of Vermeer that is dominated by his mother-in-law, jewelry obsessed wife and eleven annoying children. How she becomes his art assistant and inspiration is the thrust of the film. The soap opera of domestic problems such as money and the need for painting commissions, food, the cold, jealousy and social and religious differences of the time period are juicy ingredients in this remarkable period piece.

If you like art, enjoyed the book, want to see some of the angst of the creative process, want to imagine the way artists in the 17th century worked and how colors were made before they came in a tube you will like this film.

If you want to see some of Vermeer's work:


Acting: Young Scarlett Johansson (Lost in Translation) runs away with this film. She is in practically every scene and is perfect in the role. Kate Hudson was the original choice for this role (I think that would have been awful). At a recent trip to my local bookstore I noticed that the publisher of Girl With a Pearl Earring has replaced the real woman in the painting with Johansson's face -- not a good thing. Colin Firth, as Vermeer was fine in his depiction of the artist in turmoil. Judy Parfitt, as the mother-in-law was deliciously conniving and Tom Wilkinson played the lecherous patron to a tee.

Predilections: I am passionate about art, artists and the creative process and I enjoyed the book.

Critters: A parrot, several dogs, pigs and chickens.

Food: Lots and lots of food is prepared and depicted in the film but not a whole lot is eaten. The pigs and chickens in the above category end up on the table (gulp).

Visual Art: A festival for the eyes.

Soundtrack: Appropriately Spartan - like the dialogue.

Opening Titles: Simple type superimposed over some visually stunning set pieces.

Theater Audience: We got to see this film in previews at my favorite theater with the secret balcony. It was crowded with an appreciative audience.

Squirm Scale: A scene with an ear piercing.

Predictability Level: I read the book so I knew what was going to happen.

Oscar Worthy: Yes. Johannson will probably be acknowledged for this role. The sets are also worthy of a nod.

Nit Picking: There is an awful lot of staring by the characters. It will be annoying to some who cry out for dialogue. The film makers opted to leave out many of the ancillary story lines from the book. I have no problem with a film not being just like the original source but I think that more of the conflict between the Calvinists and the Catholics would have added more meat to the film.

Big Screen or Rental: Big screen for sure. Instead of renting films how about going out to a museum to see some real Dutch Masters. If you live in NYC the Met and the Frick both have original Vermeer's. Go check them out.

Length: 100 minutes.