Monday, November 22, 2010

Review: Johansson Shines in "Girl with a Pearl Earring" (Happy B'day, Scarlett Johansson)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 78 (of 2004) by Leroy Douresseaux

Girl with a Pearl Earring (2003)
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: UK and Luxembourg
Running time: 100 minutes (1 hour, 40 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for some sexual content
DIRECTOR: Peter Webber
WRITER: Olivia Hetreed (from a novel by Tracy Chevalier)
PRODUCERS: Andy Paterson and Anand Tucker
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Eduardo Serra (D.o.P.)
EDITOR: Kate Evans
COMPOSER: Alexandre Desplat
Academy Award nominee


Starring: Colin Firth, Scarlett Johansson, Tom Wilkinson, Judy Parfitt, Cillian Murphy, Essie Davis, Joanna Scanlan, and Alakina Mann

Girl with a Pearl Earring is a speculative account of the story behind the Johannes Vermeer painting of the same title. Set in 17th century Holland, the film revolves around Griet (Scarlett Johansson), a peasant girl who is forced to work in the household of the master painter Vermeer (Colin Firth) as a housemaid to his numerous children. Curious about art and painting, Griet draws the attention of the painter who soon teaches her to mix and grind his paint and fetch colors from market. Griet’s beauty also attracts the eye of Vermeer’s lustful patron, Van Ruijven (Tom Wilkinson), and Van Ruijven coerces Vermeer into painting a commission for his private chamber: the subject – Griet. Tensions arise, however, when Vermeer’s wife suspects intimacy between her servant and her husband. Yeah, but just wait until home girl sees that fabulous canvas her man painted with Griet as both muse and subject.

Peter Webber’s film earned Oscar® nominations (Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Best Cinematography, and Best Costume Design), and all of them are well deserved. Girl with a Pearl Earring is one of the most beautiful films I’ve seen since the mid-90’s sumptuous fest, Restoration. Webber, ably assisted by his master film photographer Eduardo Serra, frames many of the film’s shots as if they were individual works of art by Vermeer. In fact, the film is like a flipbook of paintings in Vermeer’s style, so accurately does the film capture the look and feel of the artist famous for his beautiful paintings capturing the daily life of domestics and servants.

Not only is the film good to look at, the film is also simply a superbly made drama. Ms. Johansson continues to prove that she is talented young actress. She has relatively little dialogue in the film, but she carries the movie by giving a performance that must be visually interpreted if one is to see into her character. True movie lovers appreciate when a performer can silently establish mood, character, and story so well. Although she won a Golden Globe nomination, the Academy was not forthcoming with an Oscar® nomination. It’s up to us to honor such a performance as if it had been so acclaimed with awards.

9 of 10

2004 Academy Awards: 3 nominations: “Best Art Direction-Set Decoration” (Ben van Os-art director and Cecile Heideman-set decorator), “Best Cinematography”), Eduardo Serra), and “Best Costume Design” (Dien van Straalen)

2004 BAFTA Awards: 2 wins: “Alexander Korda Award for Best British Film” (Andy Paterson, Anand Tucker, and Peter Webber) and “Anthony Asquith Award for Film Music” (Alexandre Desplat); 8 nominations: “Best Cinematography” (Eduardo Serra), “Best Costume Design” (Dien van Straalen), “Best Make Up/Hair” (Jenny Shircore), “Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role” (Scarlett Johansson), “Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role” (Judy Parfitt), “Best Production Design” (Ben van Os), “Best Screenplay – Adapted” (Olivia Hetreed), “Carl Foreman Award for the Most Promising Newcomer” (Peter Webber-director)

2004 Golden Globes: 2 nominations: “Best Original Score - Motion Picture” (Alexandre Desplat) and “Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama” (Scarlett Johansson)


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