The Last Vermeer is impressive visually, but rather dull for most of its runtime before delivering a solid third act. The film is not atrocious by any means but just seemed to lack a reason for anyone watching to care. Period dramas have a list of classics to offer, but The Last Vermeer will not be joining that list. A post World War 2 film that is wonderfully directed, and features some impressive acting, but its narrative is just lacking.
Being set after the fall of Hitler, and being based on a true story was the film’s most interesting aspects. The Last Vermeer showcases strong cinematography, acting, direction, from start to finish. The film seems to drag on at times, but a stellar lead performance makes it bearable. Directed by Dan Friedkin, The Last Vermeer stars Guy Pierce, Claes Bang, Vicky Krieps, Roland Moller, and Olivia Grant. In the film, Han van Meegeren, a famous swindler is expected of selling Johannes Vermeer paintings to the Nazis. He is investigated by a member of the Dutch resistance (Bang) and a soldier (Moller). As the film progresses, the truth’s regarding Meegeren schemes is revealed.
The screenplay for The Last Vermeer was written by Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby, and John Orloff. In a script full of uninteresting characters, it is great to know that our central character will keep the audience invested. Meegeren is considered one of the greatest forgers in history, and thanks to a brilliant performance from Pierce, the interest in the character grows with each new scene. Meegeren has a burning passion for painting, it has existed in him since his youth. Unfortunately, his father would beat him for painting, but he escaped and went on to live out his passion. A passion that has turned him into a con artist, as far as the Nazis are concerned. The script gives you enough to introduce Meegeren and the performance just makes him captivating. Every other character comes off like a distraction and it’s unfortunate because the acting isn’t bad at all.
The Last Vermeer effectively develops its central character and what begins as a mystery, transforms into a courtroom drama for its final act. A third act that was so well written it puts the earlier portions of the film to shame. Not knowing enough details about Captain Joseph Pillar, the resistance member investigating Meegren, is where the film lacks. A lot of time is spent with Meegeren and Pillar, so it’s odd to learn little to nothing about him, as he carries the story with our con artist. Also, subplots seem to go unresolved as the film progresses, which felt odd. As mentioned above, the performances are great for everyone involved. Pierce eats up the scenery as Meegeren, coming off very unorthodox, gifted, and mischievous. Bang is delightful as Pillar despite not learning much about him, he keeps you interested in learning what is going on with Meegeren.
Friedkin’s direction is acceptable here, and the cinematography was breathtaking. The highlights come from the courtroom scenes because there’s emotion, stunning internal shots, and a growing sense of intrigue that feels like it was trying to break out during the first two acts. Otherwise, the pacing choice made The Last Vermeer come off as flat as Pillar’s character. Pierce’s performance is so great that when he is off-screen viewers may grow even more uninterested in the flat character of Pillar. That solid performance just isn’t enough because the writers failed to give viewers any reason to care about him, but he does get a little development. Visually this film is a home run, it’s just the narrative hiccups that hinder it at times.
The Last Vermeer is effective for what it has to offer, but as far as period dramas go, there are better. Being based on a true story was the film’s biggest attraction, but it’s carried by Pierce’s strong performance and its visual treats. Despite the narrative hiccups and an undeserved final act, The Last Vermeer offers disposable drama that checks off enough boxes to possibly be enough for some viewers.