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Girl with a Pearl Earring (2003)

Beauty inspires obsession.

Rating: 5/10

Running Time: 95 minutes

UK Certificate: 12A

Sumptuous set design, painstaking cinematography and thoughtful, understated performances make ‘Girl With A Pearl Earring’ an aesthetic masterpiece – but dear God is it dull.

It’s based on the best-selling novel by Tracy Chevalier but, more significantly than that, the book itself tells the story behind a painting by brush-brandishing Dutchman Johannes Vermeer. And not a very interesting story either, it has to be said.

Rent-a-thesp Colin Firth plays Vermeer, who takes a break from the clogs, windmills and whore-patrolled waterways of 17th Century Holland to paint humble housemaid Griet (a perfectly-cast Scarlett Johansson, of Lost In Translation fame). You wouldn’t think there’d be much problems with that – only Vermeer’s missus Catharina (Essie Davis) doesn’t quite see things that way. In short, she thinks the pair of them are at it, and we can rest assured the gouache is going to hit the fan when she finally decides to put her foot down.

Not much happens in ‘Girl With A Pearl Earring’. There’s lots of sneaking around, lots of gazing longingly in the direction of nothing in particular, and the unintentionally-comical sight of Cillian (28 Days Later) Murphy going about dressed as what appears to be a little pixie.

What it basically boils down to is that the plot has neither the depth nor the interest to match the production values. It could even be said that the film is much like the painting itself – impressive to look at for a little while, but you wouldn’t want to spend an hour-and-a-half staring at it. Especially when School Of Rock is playing in the room next door.

It's Got: Judy Parfitt wearing a MASSIVE collar – presumably to stop her from licking her wounds?

It Needs: To explain why everyone adopts a uniform English accent. Aren’t we supposed to be in the Netherlands?


A much better title would have been ‘Much Ado About Painting’.