February 03, 2003 12:00 PM

CBS (Sun., Feb. 2, 9 p.m. ET)

They say every picture tells a story, but it’s not good to tell too many.

Based on Susan Vreeland’s 1999 novel Girl in Hyacinth Blue, this Hallmark Hall of Fame production begins in the present, with an eccentric prep-school history teacher (Glenn Close behind thick glasses) trying to convince the new art instructor (Thomas Gibson) that a painting she treasures in her New England home is an authentic work by the 17th-century Dutch master Johannes Vermeer. Close supports her case by relating stories of the painting’s past owners, and it’s these subplots that make up most of the drama. Though filmed handsomely in the Netherlands, almost all the flashbacks seem like musty museum pieces. What we really want to know is how Close and her aged, infirm father came into possession of the painting—a revelation that’s long delayed but nonetheless disturbing. Close portrays a fascinating character, fiercely proud yet desperate for Gibson’s approval. Too bad her screen time is limited.

BOTTOM LINE: Less would have been more

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