Pemberley (Lyme Park, Cheshire)

Pemberley (Lyme Park, Cheshire)
Oh, to be in England...

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Gorgeous but disappointing films- Marie Antoinette and Girl With a Pearl Earring

Kirsten Dunst as the iconic Marie Antoinette

Scarlett Johansson as Vermeer's iconic Girl With a Pearl Earring
As my regular readers well know, there are few period dramas I don't like (or love!) and even these two have many redeeming qualities, but I have to say that they were both gorgeous disappointments for me. Both Marie Antoinette and Girl With a Pearl Earring are based on books (the former on a biography by Antonia Fraser and the latter a work of fiction by Tracy Chevalier) and both could have been great films. But alas they are not great. More like so-so films with some pretty breathtaking cinematography.

Am I the only one creeped out by Colin Firth's wig?!

As I have recently arrived home from a trip to Paris and Amsterdam/Delft, I was scouring my DVD collection for films with either French or Dutch influences to watch and write about. These two leapt out at me. As we had actually just been to Delft, the quaint historic town where Vermeer spent his entire life, I pulled out Girl With a Pearl Earring first. I mean, how can you miss with Colin Firth, ScarJo, Tom Wilkinson and Judy Parfitt?

Tom Wilkinson and Judy Parfitt as Vermeer's patron and mother-in-law are truly wonderful

The indoor sets and the artistic quality of the lighting were lovely, although the outdoor shots were more like Venice than Delft, largely because they reused a set in Luxembourg where a film set in Venice was shot. Sigh. The real canals as they are just as they would have been in Vermeer's time but I guess filming on location is difficult. And although the acting seems to be good, they just didn't lose me in their characters. I still felt I was watching Colin Firth in a bad wig (although the one on Cillian Murphy was worse!) and ScarJo in a bonnet.

Cillian Murphy in a fright wig and Scarlett Johansson in a bonnet

Judy Parfitt as Vermeer's mother-in-law and Tom Wilkinson as his lecherous patron were spot on however. So, I can still recommend watching it to learn about Vermeer and his amazing works, of which only 34 now survive. And watch it because it is gorgeous and sumptuous in it's scenery, costumes and cinematography.

Sumptuous and colourful, this could also be a painting!
And now on to Marie Antoinette. Filmed almost entirely in France (and director Sofia Coppola even got permission to film in the Palace of Versailles!) there is no doubt that this film is one of the most visually pleasing I have ever seen. That alone is reason to watch it. Eye candy is probably the most often used term to describe Marie Antoinette.

Not surprising that they were guillotined by the poor starving peasants!

There is a lot of great historical content in this film too and although not perfectly correct, it is probably closer to the truth than most bio pics. So what was it that bugged me about this film? Was it the weird mix of accents, from American to British to French (real and faked)?

OK, the costumes alone make the film worth watching

If I compare it to Shakespeare in Love, which is one of my absolute "can't do without" films, there is just a lack of heart and soul to the film. I just didn't care whether they got their heads chopped off at the end. And that is never a good sign in a film...

Mmmmmmm.....Marie Antoinette shoes from the film. Manolo Blahnik made hundreds....
So watch this film for the costumes, the shoes, the food, the scenery, the furniture and even the history....just don't watch it to be swept away by the story. 

Marie AntoinetteGirl With a Pearl Earring


  1. I loved the book of Girl with a Pearl Earring, and thought the movie was a faithful adaptation that I quite enjoyed. In fact, it's in my Netflix queue for rewatching someday :) I must admit, however, that I liked it despite Colin Firth's performance not because of it--the wig was creepy.

    Haven't seen Marie Antoinette yet.

    > there is just a lack of heart and soul to the film.

    In a way, that doesn't surprise me--it seems so much attention was put on the set and setting, that the story and characterization got lost.

  2. Hi Jane,

    Perhaps I need to read the book of Girl with a Pearl Earring to better appreciate the film. It felt truncated to me like I didn't get to know the characters, which you likely had from the book. I should read the book anyway as I love Vermeer's paintings and had a great afternoon in Delft last week.
    Glad I'm not the only one creeped out by Colin's wig. Ewww! :)

  3. I agree with regards to your statement about "Girl With A Pearl Earring." I didn't find myself lost in the movie and I watched it partly for Colin and also, because I was an art major at university. I found the wig on Colin to be very goofy and there really did not seem to be any chemistry between he and Scar. Jo. To be honest the last time I really like her acting was in the movie "Manny & Lo."

  4. Hi Ladytoesocks!
    I had to look up Manny & Lo. Boy, she was just a little girl back then. Yes, for me GWAPE just didn't capture the magic. It is however very pretty to watch, I just get really sleepy when I watch it. I do think reading the book is a good idea though as there seems to be a good story there that just didn't quite make it to me in cinematic form! And yes, the wig master should be taken to task for that travesty on Colin Firth's head!

  5. Watch Dangerous Liaisons for some truly lavish dress, sets and superb acting to boot! :)




Related Posts with Thumbnails