This film, adapted from a work of fiction by author Tracy Chevalier, tells a story about the events surrounding the creation of the painting "Girl With A Pearl Earring" by 17th century Dutch master Johannes Vermeer. A young peasant maid working in the house of painter Johannes Vermeer becomes his talented assistant and the model for one of his most famous works.
At the very start of this film, Griet (Scarlett Johansson) is shown peeling an onion — a metaphor as image that isn't often seen outside first-semester filmmaking classes. The determination visible in such an effort communicates Importance Writ Large. The film, adapted by Olivia Hetreed from Tracy Chevalier's novel, does have a great subject; creating a story around a work of art shrouded in mystery, and dealing with a project that both ruins a woman's reputation and ensures her a place in history. In "Earring," the story offered is Griet's, a scullery maid who became the muse of Johannes Vermeer (Colin Firth) and the subject of the painting of the same name. Ms. Johansson is photographed so that her skin is as opalescent as her earring, but the movie is opaque. It's an earnest, obvious melodrama with no soul, filled with the longing silences that come after a sigh. — Elvis Mitchell
2003-12-12 | Elvis Mitchell | Read the New York Times Review of Girl With a Pearl Earring