The Last Vermeer - B
Rated R, 117 minutes
With such works as "Girl with a Pearl Earring" and "The Milkmaid," Johannes Vermeer is considered one of the world's most influential painters. The compelling, well-acted drama "The Last Vermeer" directed by Dan Friedkin tells the story of an ambitious artist who became very wealthy forging many of Vermeer's works.
Dutch folk hero Han van Meegeren (Guy Pearce) swindled millions of dollars from the Nazis by selling them forgeries of Vermeer paintings and is considered the most successful art forger of all time, estimated to have accumulated a wealth of about $30 million in today's dollars from the forgeries.
"The Last Vermeer" is a fascinating portrait of a bold artist though may have limited appeal outside the art gallery set. It occasionally plods, especially in its middle act; some of van Meegeren's techniques are less engaging than the actual end result, which made him fabulously wealthy throughout World War II. Directed by Friedkin and co-written by John Orloff ("A Mighty Heart") and "The Expanse's" Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby, "Vermeer" is bolstered by a colorful turn from "Memento's" Pearce as van Meegeren, as well as a solid turn from Claes Bang ("The Square") as Captain Joseph Pillar, the Dutch army captain-turned-investigator who helped bring van Meegeren to justice.
Rather than paint him as a hardened criminal, "Vermeer" is in fact a sympathetic look at van Meegeren, which shows him more as a flawed artist seeking personal success, and providing some sense of justice in that he stole millions from the Nazi's. The film's final act, van Meegeren's trial, is its most memorable sequence, with some insight into his transactions with the Nazi's.
The film's coda is a sad one: van Meergen died days after his trial and conviction, and never served his sentence, which was a light one (a year in jail) considering his crimes. Still, "The Last Vermeer" is an engrossing look at life imitating art, or an artist infamously imitating another.