Girl with a Pearl Earring ★★★★
Lovers of art and history take note: British director and feature debutant Peter Webber’s chaste but charged film is based on Tracy Chevalier’s 1999 novel and founded on the relationship between 17th-century Dutch master Johannes Vermeer (a dignified Colin Firth, keeping his passion buttoned up) and the unnamed girl in his renowned portrait.(His paintings usually had prosaic titles: The Milkmaid, The Girl with the Wine Glass.) A then little-known Scarlett Johansson plays fictional maid Griet, whom the unhappily married dauber befriends, mentors and starts to paint without informing his wife (Essie Davis). Johansson mainly moons eyebrowlessly about, looking heartbreakingly beguiling, a skill upon which she has built her entire movie career. But a strong supporting cast boasts Tom Wilkinson, Cillian Murphy and Joanna Scanlan (from C4’s No Offence). Watch out for significant use of Vermeer’s cornflower blue.
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