Set in Holland in 1655, this is the story behind the famous painting. Scarlett Johansson plays a maid who works for the painter Johannes Vermeer (Colin Firth) before inadvertently becoming his muse.
The problems of this film can be put into two categories: the story, and Scarlett Johansson.
The problem with the story is that nothing happens. A maid becoming the subject of a painting might have been substantial enough for an hour long TV movie on BBC Four, but the first half of this is just Scarlett Johansson preparing food and washing bed linen. About as much happens over its entire 90 minutes as during the opening credits of most films. Who would have thought watching a man paint would be as boring as watching paint dry?
I kept waiting for the drama, intrigue or mystery that never came. Apart from a completely inconsequential romantic sub plot with Cillian Murphy, and a final scene that raises the heart rate into double digits, this is a completely passionless affair. It’s meant to be set in 17th Century Holland, not the land where time stood still. Some entire scenes are made up of domestic chores, while characters glance awkwardly at each other like acquaintances in a lift. If you deleted all the scenes where nothing happens it would just be a trailer for an extremely boring looking film.
Now onto the second problem. Ms Johansson has never been a great actor. In fact she’s often quite bad, and this is no exception. No matter what situation she’s in she just refuses to act, with a performance which demonstrates so little emotion you begin to wonder if she’s there at all. She stands around looking incredibly gormless with her mouth constantly hanging open. This is no exaggeration. Her mouth lolls open like a vegetative trout in almost every scene. This is probably because in the original painting Griet has her mouth open, but that doesn’t mean she always had her mouth open. That’s just ridiculous. It seems like Johansson is aiming for the proverbial blank canvas but she confuses an understated performance with doing nothing at all.
To sum up this film I leave you with a quote from my sister:
“It’s like a Quorn fillet that’s been in the microwave too long: dry and tough to get through.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself.