I usually like to go to movies before I trash them, but I just can’t bring myself to see Girl With a Pearl Earring, the flick about the chick who poses for Jan Vermeer’s famous painting of the same name. Compare this image of Vermeer’s painting and this one of actress Scarlett Johansson looking sexy/lugubrious wearing a replica of the Vermeer gal’s duds, and you’ll see what I mean.

It’s not that Johansson isn’t gorgeous–she is–and it’s not that she, blonde and coolly northerly in looks, couldn’t have stepped out of a Vermeer painting–she could. It’s the pose and the treatment. Vermeer’s “Girl” looks infinitely and, finally, impenetrably mysterious, because what Vermeer was most interested in was light, the way it moved along surfaces, such as the girl’s shimmering blue silk turban, her moon-irridescent earring, her lovely and shining face. Light itself is a mystery, as is the beauty of the things  that Vermeer captured with his paintbrush–and as is human nature itself, which can’t be captured with a paintbrush. Johansson, by contrast, looks just plain miserable. She looks weighed down by that blue turban, which doesn’t shimmer. Heavy and confining, it looks instead like one of those wide elastic headbands that the Williams sisters wear to keep their hair out their eyes on the tennis court. (And also like that awful gold thing Nicole Kidman wore around her head the other day at the Golden Globes awards).

It’s not Johansson’s fault; she’s a fine actress, as her cool but riveting performance in the recent “Lost in Translation” indicates. It’s the movie’s plot (from what I’ve read), which can be boiled down to: The Awful Plight of Women. The girl in the painting, Griet, is supposed to be an oppressed and abused housemaid of Vermeer’s; the latter not only paints her but pimps her, to his favorite patron. Meanwhile Mrs. Vermeer looks homely and has a lot of babies, proving how dreadful it is to be a wife and mother. Griet turns out to have a talent for mixing Vermeer’s paints, and the movie suggests that if only she were a man, she could have been another Vermeer.

This is the “Room of Her Own” theory of stomped-upon female genius famously propounded by Virginia Woolf and taken up by legions of feminists in our own time. Woolf argued that if Shakespeare had a sister with his talents in the male-dominated Elizabethan age, she wouldn’t have been another Shakespeare, but would have instead felt miserable, slept around, and wrecked her life.(My own theory is just the opposite: If Shakespeare had had a sister, she would have written all his plays and then, in best sisterly fashion, kicked Bro Will in the shins until he agreed to sign his name to them. And maybe that’s in fact what happened.) The Virginia  Woolf subtext, from what I’ve read, dominates “The Girl With the Pearl Earring.” Indeed, director Peter Webber said in a newspaper interview that his aim was to bring out “the dark undertow” in Vermeer’s art. I think he meant “dark undertone”–but that only makes my point. Darkness isn’t what you should go for with a painter of light.