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), 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 just refuses to act, with a performance that displays 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 instead comes across as blank brained.
Girl With a Pearl Earring is on iPlayer until 9 September.
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