With A Pearl Earring & Butterfly Effect
by Dennis Morton
Johansson, barely of legal age, is a precociously wise actor.
And shes had the good fortune of working for directors
with a gift for understatement, a quality too rare on the big
screen. But Peter Webber, (like Sofia Coppola, who directed
Johansson in "Lost In Translation") understands that
less is often more. It certainly is in "Girl With A Pearl
Colin Firth plays the great Dutch painter, Jan Vermeer. And
Johansson is Griet, one of the family maids in Vermeers
household. I dont know how historically accurate the movie
is, but in the film, Griet becomes the model for Vermeers
famous painting. Director Webbers sense of restraint almost
gets away from him when he turns his cinematic brush to a Vermeer
family portrait. Vermeers wife and older daughter are
painted in garish shades of vengeful jealousy. The script provides
us with the reasons why, but the daughter, especially, is almost
But to quibble over that would be to lose sight of Webbers
achievement, a feat not fully realized until the final, truly
awe inspiring scene. Without exaggeration, I can tell you that
this scene brought tears to my eyes, gave me goose bumps and
a set of not unpleasant shudders.
As good as Johansson and Firth are, and without in any way intending
to diminish the competence of Director Peter Webber, for me
the real stars of "Girl With A Pearl Earring" are
Cinematographer Eduardo Serra and the Production Designer, Ben
van Os. Almost every frame of this film could be a painting.
The script, score, acting, and direction are fine, but if the
sound were lost, "Girl With A Pearl Earring" would
be worth watching, again and again, for the sheer visual beauty
of it. "
Earring" opens this weekend at The Del
Mar Theatre, in downtown Santa Cruz.
The other movie I bring to your attention is already fluttering
on area screens. Chaos Theory notwithstanding, "Butterfly
Effect" is unlikely to produce a tsunami of adulation among
most movie-goers. In fact, the "Butterfly Effect"
has been roundly pummeled by most of the critics.
I would like to suggest, however, that there is a way to actually
enjoy this film. Granted, my reading of it is most likely not
the one intended by its team of writer/ directors, Eric Bress
and J Mackye Gruber.
I see "Butterfly Effect" as a ghoulish version of
"Groundhog Day" for adolescents. A scene early in
the movie convinced me that the directors had their tongues
buried dangerously deep in cheek. It had to do with a drawing
produced by a seven year old named Evan. It was a work depicting
domestic slaughter of the patricide and matricide ilk. But the
extremely fiendish nature of the drawing was exceeded in its
effect by the skill of the rendering. Little Evan was producing
gallery quality work. He may have needed a shrink, but in todays
world, that would have come on the way home from Southebys.
Mom might well fear for her life. She might be well advised
to put the cutlery under lock and key, but if she expired, it
would be with a full bank account.
However, nothing what so ever is made of Evans precocious
artistry, by any of the adults who examine it. So, Im
thinking nice touch. When will the next joke roll drolly
by? Minutes pass, a few dozen of them, punctuated here and there
by scenes considerably less artful than Evans etchings,
and Im beginning to think these director guys didnt
get their own joke. And then the fun begins. Its dark,
and tongues are buried even deeper than before. Or maybe theyre
not. Maybe the events are concocted in full earnestness. In
either case, intended or not, "Butterfly Effect" turns
out to be a very dark comedy. There is a suggestion lurking
just below the surface of the narrative that language and writing
have the power to change the world, though not necessarily for
the better. And that that power, ultimately, is trumped by the
power of the image. To test my theory youll have to see
this probably inadvertent gem for yourself.
For KUSPs Film Gang, this is Dennis Morton.