Scarlett Johansson dazzled audiences in Lost in Translation, but it was for Girl with a Pearl Earring that she received her first Golden Globe nomination. It is hard to figure out why. She hardly speaks and the rest of the movie is uninspiring.
Girl with a Pearl Earring fictionalizes the history of Johannes Vermeer's famous 17th century painting by following one of his maids, Griet (Johansson). Through Griet's eyes, we see an awkward upper class family that is on the verge of chaos, as the relationship between Vermeer, played by Colin Firth, and his wife is strained, to say the least. However, with the help of Griet, Vermeer finds his muse and begins to paint her, though the repercussions may not be worth it.
Johansson, who is destined to win more awards in the future, is only decent here. She plays the part well, but is given so little dialogue that it is hard to really feel her presence. Mostly, she just nervously glances down at the floor when she gets in trouble and shares a few interested stares with Vermeer; other than that, there isn't much in the way of her character.
In fact, that is the problem with the entire movie. There is very little character development or character at all, in every aspect of the film. Firth's Vermeer is never explored at all; he is simply a man that likes to paint. The movie never tries to explain what moves him or what he is thinking regarding Griet. As the only historically accurate character in the movie, a little more examination would have been nice. Furthermore, his associations with his wife, children and mother-in-law are never given much treatment; in the first few minutes we are handed the obvious fact that things are not too well in the household. After that, this dynamic never changes, for better or for worse. Another story left basically untold is the situation between Griet and a man known as Van Ruijven (Tom Wilkinson). Van Ruijven is a rich, high-class figure who lusts after Griet; this is interesting enough, but the subplot never develops to anything meaningful.
Essentially, Girl with a Pearl Earring ends before it wraps up anything. Even the main story, the relationship between Griet and Vermeer seems unfinished, and the rest of the subplots are left in disarray. When the credits began to role, I was utterly shocked that the movie had ended without... an ending.
All that being said, Girl with a Pearl Earring isn't necessarily a bad movie. It just isn't that inspiring or powerful, or anything close to what can be considered a good movie. On the other hand, it does have its moments and overall is enjoyable enough to watch.
Girl with a Pearl Earring works at a basic level, but never progresses to be anything more than a plain and ordinary film.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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