A mystery hidden for generations. A truth that will finally be revealed.
What is the secret of the mysterious painting? Is it a long-lost Vermeer original, or simply a near-authentic replication? And if it is real, how has it made it through all these years without being discovered, preserved, and placed in a museum? It is these questions, and the subsequent unfolding of tales linked to the painting, that drive Brush With Fate.
Facts of the Case
Cornelia Engelbrecht (Glenn Close), a historian with fish-bowl glasses at a prep school, has a secret. And it is the new art teacher (Thomas Gibson) that will have the secret revealed to him. He is shocked to discover what appears to be a Vermeer painting hanging in Cornelia's near-empty house. It can't be real, he tells himself. But Cornelia presents the evidence of its authenticity in a series of stories, documenting the role the painting has played in the lives of individuals throughout the centuries. Spanning milieus of flood-soaked farms in the Netherlands to World War II Europe to Vermeer's own homestead where we see the painting first created, the stories reflect how each individual came upon the painting, and how it affected them—up until the mystery is finally unraveled as to how it ended up with Cornelia.
Brush With Fate is basically a collection of shorts, all with the painting at its thread. Each story is well done, though none is particularly compelling. The production values are high, particularly when a dike breaks and workers find themselves overrun by torrents of water. Of course, this is immediately followed by scenes of the flooded towns with obvious computer work that just do not work at all.
However, for the most part the stories work, whether they deal with an impoverished potato farming family and the wife who is reluctant to sell the Vermeer for food and part with its beauty, or an illicit romance that leads to an unwanted pregnancy (and a rather disturbing scene of an infant buried alive).
The major complaint I'm going to lob at this is the score. The "sweeping," yet painfully saccharine soundtrack, is rarely relegated to the background to supplement the action on film, and is sometimes so oppressive I felt the urge to scream: "I get it, this is sweeping! Point made! I am officially swept!"
For the most part the film is well acted, despite some over-the-top performances here and there. The device of the painting tying everything together panned out well, as it proved to be fairly interesting connecting the dots.
However, it must be noted that the presentation of the disc is abysmally abysmal. The main menu is so outdated and embarrassing I was looking for a "Commodore 64" insignia somewhere at the bottom of the screen. And Artisan's idea of "special features" continues to astound: cast and credits (ooh!), interactive menus (ahh!), biographies (wow!), and—get this—scene access. Very pathetic.
The film is full-screen with a 2.0 Dolby surround mix that really pushes the aforementioned score into the viewer's skull.
One can do worse—as far as family entertainment goes—than Brush With Fate. For the most part this film is pretty well-done, and the narrative remains watchable throughout. Just don't expect anything besides the feature and an amateurish menu design on this disc.
All parties released to spread a mild amount of inoffensive amusement to families everywhere. Artisan, with its blasé approach to this release, is to beaten with a garden hose.
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