La Vie en Rose
The History Boys
Girl with a Pearl Earring
Margot at the Wedding
I didn't intend it to be so, but they are actually listed in order of my preference, though they're quite different from one another, so it's a little silly to compare.
Marion Cotillard is incredible as Edith Piaf in La Vie en Rose. If you're too young to remember the magical Piaf sound, there are some YouTube clips to watch. Milord was like the theme song of my college years. Update: Wow! She just won the Oscar!
Finding Neverland is about JM Barrie and the writing of Peter Pan. I have no idea how much reality it's based on - maybe none - but it's altogether charming. Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet star.
The History Boys is about eight bright, middle-class young men being prepped for admission to Oxford and Cambridge by a pair of teachers with very different points of view about education. The cast came directly from a legitimate theater run and they are all a joy to watch.
The Girl with the Pearl Earring is based on Tracy Chevalier's novel of the same name. It's a fictional story based on the Vermeer painting . Visually it's gorgeous, and that's the main reason to see it. It's like being able to walk around in 17th century Delft - or, for that matter, a Vermeer. The plot is a little thin and Scarlett Johansson moves through the film in a kind of daze - rarely speaking, always looking pale and lovely - like the girl in the painting.
Margot at the Wedding just didn't quite work for me. The actors were all competent - Jack Black was exceptional, in fact. Maybe it was by design, but it seemed very choppy to me; each scene would come to an abrupt end - almost as if the film ran out - then it would be on to something else. I would rarely notice anything like that, so I assume it was intentional. The transportation symbolism (movie starts on a train, ends on a bus) seemed a little heavy-handed (yes these people are all growing, moving on....). Oh well. The director's earlier autobiographical film, The Squid and the Whale, is worth looking for.