Saturday, February 07, 2004

Girl with a Pearl Earring (IMDB) (Netflix)
A fictional "making of" drama about the famous Vermeer painting, starring Colin Firth as the painter and Scarlett Johansson as the paintee. Scarlett becomes a maid in the Vermeer household, which, other than Firth, is teeming with estrogen—there's the oft-pregnant and cuckholded wife, a girl band's worth of snotty daughters, a bossy housekeeper and a mother-in-law who could intimidate a grizzly bear, but everyone has to suck up to patron Van Ruijven (Tom Wilkinson), who knows how to strike a bargain. Scarlett of course gets caught in the multilateral cross-fire when Vermeer sees that she (in today's vernacular) "gets him" and becomes his silent muse.

And silent she is, uttering no more than a few pages of dialog throughout the film. It's a shaded, physical performance of reactions to everyone attentions, which are a disorienting mix of jealousy, dismissiveness, lechery and mentoring. If there were a category for most sympathetic movie character, Johansson would get it in a walk. Although fictionalized, the story doesn't seem sensationalized, but it does seem to go out of its way to make the household as tense and somber as it can. An engaging little slice of the artistic life and the circumstances that may or may not have contributed to greatness.