Girl With A Pearl Earring

on December 12, 2003 by Kevin Courrier
"Girl With a Pearl Earring" is an adaptation of the kind of feminist fiction that is often no more than a high-art equivalent of Harlequin romance. This setting for 16th-century Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer's famous portrait is told from the point of view of the maidservant who sat for it. Although it's an elegantly lit and beautifully composed literary conceit, the hushed tones of the picture are the kind usually reserved for lighting incense sticks instead.

Colin Firth plays the tempestuous painter like a muted Heathcliff still prowling the moors in "Wuthering Heights." Tom Wilkinson, portraying the morally corrupt art patron who keeps Vermeer alive, goes in the opposite direction. He acts up a storm as if he thought the camera might forget that he's there. Only Scarlett Johansson as Griet, the subject of Vermeer's painting, gives a delicately nuanced performance. In what is essentially a pantomime role, Johansson infuses her character with enough emotional shadings to bring the painting to life for us. In "Girl With a Pearl Earring," she is the only gem among the scrap jewelry. Starring Colin Firth, Scarlett Johansson, Tom Wilkinson and Judy Parfitt. Directed by Peter Webber. Written by Olivia Hetreed. Produced by Andy Paterson and Anand Tucker. A Lions Gate release. Drama. Rated PG-13 for some sexual content. Running time: 99 min

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