Girl With a Pearl Earring

dir. Webber

Opens Fri Jan 30

Fox Tower

Girl With a Pearl Earring is beautifully photographed and splendidly assembled. It is also surprisingly inert--not technically, but emotionally so, and the overall result is akin to watching paint harden on canvas. This, obviously, is not a prime choice, no matter how much you pant for the cultural stuff.

Based on the novel by Tracy Chevalier, the film muses over the life of a young housemaid named Griet (Scarlett Johansson), who comes under the employment of painter Johannes Vermeer (Colin Firth, supremely miscast). Can you spot the trajectory from here? Yes indeed, Vermeer finds himself inspired by Griet, and, yes, Griet's wide eyes and milky tone eventually make their way onto one of Vermeer's canvases, but really--and I state this as someone who normally finds himself fawning over meticulous period works--who cares?

Chances are, you won't be one of those who does care, for Girl With a Pearl Earring is stuffy to a fault--no matter how many shots of Johansson's pout director Peter Webber can fit in (and there are indeed many). And the final tally, when all the canvas is stretched, is a film that falls somewhere between the best of Merchant Ivory and the very worst of Merchant Ivory. Which is to say this: It is well made and pretty to look at, but nonetheless an empty--not to mention quite often outright dull--affair. Put another way: There was no reason for the film to have made the leap from the page to the screen.