Volume 6, Issue 3 University of Houston
Johansson proves her worth with 'Earring'
By Christian Schmidt
Scarlett Johansson is proving herself to be among Hollywood's most talented and compelling actresses. The 19-year-old proved herself as a force in movies like Ghost World (2001) and Lost in Translation, 2003's indie hit in which she starred opposite Bill Murray. Johansson made a name for herself in The Horse Whisperer (1998), sharing the screen and holding her own with Robert Redford.
With Girl with a Pearl Earring, Johansson tries her hand at a period piece for the second time (American Rhapsody was set in the 1950s). The film is an adaptation of Tracy Chevalier's beautiful novel, which gives a fictional account of a girl who worked for the prominent Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer.
Scarlett Johansson and Colin Firth portray the precarious relationship between the Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer and one of his models in Girl with a Pearl Earring.
Photo Courtesy of Lion's Gate Films
One of Vermeer's more well-known paintings is titled "Girl with a Pearl Earring" and features, as one might guess, an attractive young woman wearing a pearl earring.
Griet, the girl in the portrait, is a young maid hired by Vermeer to help care for his six children and do work around the house. She must contend not only with the children, who are a handful, but also Vermeer's wife, a bossy and sensitive woman who takes an almost instant dislike to Griet, and Vermeer's mother-in-law, a powerful but mysterious woman.
Griet is forced to work to support her family and is soon torn between her own family and Vermeer's world. She helps him prepare the material for his painting, and soon intrigues him enough that he insists upon painting her.
Vermeer's wife becomes jealous, and the final straw is when Vermeer forces Griet to wear his wife's pearl earring for the painting. In the end, she must choose between a life with Pieter the butcher or a life as a maid in Vermeer's household.
The movie is one of the most visually beautiful films to hit theaters in a long time, and Johansson and Firth's performances are excellent. The movie is compelling, all the more so because it follows the life of a young woman with little freedom in her life as she struggles to make a life for herself.
Though inevitably much is lost from the novel, the film remains true to the story of Griet. Firth's Vermeer is a more human presence than the distant painter pictured in the novel.
Girl with a Pearl Earring
Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Colin Firth
Lion's Gate Films
The verdict: A successful adaptation of a compelling novel with strong individual performances and an appealing look.
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