Scott Hardie: “It ruled.”

Gosh, isn't it a shame that the rich person and the poor person, who are obvious soulmates, are unable to express their love in an oppressed society? That's a tale told in many costume dramas every year, and "Girl with a Pearl Earring" tells it just well enough to make us care this time around. It succeeds best at creating Vermeer's world: His palatte becomes the movie's color scheme, his perspective of certain rooms becomes the camera's perspective. Some of the wide-angle shots even look two-dimensional. Its failure is to get us inside Vermeer's head in any other sense; Colin Firth gets top billing but barely says a dozen lines in the whole film, mostly staring off into space, daydreaming. No wonder the painter produced so few works. Griet, the titular girl, comes through as a realistic character who makes plausible decisions, and Scarlett Johansson helps us understand her motives even if she overdoes the skittishness. This is only slightly more accessible than your average Merchant Ivory production, but it looks fantastic and the creation of 1665 Holland on the screen is worth beholding.

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