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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Now Can We Finally Stop Calling Scarlett Johansson Overrated?

Over the years, I've found myself having to defend Scarlett Johansson to the masses on many different occasions. While I have generally been impressed by her acting resume--save for such duds as The Spirit, The Black Dahlia and a few others--many dismissed her altogether, reasoning that she's all good looks and no talent. I definitely can't argue about her almost disturbing gorgeousness, but to say that she doesn't have the chops to back up her physical appeal is unwarranted.

But prickly audiences haven't been Johansson's only critics. There was a point in her Hollywood career that she was only cast as the vixen/sexpot. Take for instance, Vicky Cristina Barcelona--a good Woody Allen movie in which she played a sexy young woman who catches the eye of an equally sexy man (Javier Bardem), while his spastic ex (Penélope Cruz) plots her return. A meaty enough lead role, but slightly one-note. Same goes for He's Just Not That Into You, in which she portrayed the other woman to Bradley Cooper's married playboy. Except that last one is more like zero-note and completely forgettable.

These roles were especially puzzling coming from an actress who earlier in her career tackled wonderfully complex characters like Olivia in The Prestige, Rebecca in Ghost World and Charlotte in Lost in Translation--three women who superseded their ages yet inhabited enough wide-eyed wonder to capture audiences. Once she started flailing about in sexier, more vapid roles, audiences stopped believing in her and she became simply a live action Jessica Rabbit.

But then something happened in her career. After earning a Tony award in 2010 for her performance in the stage revival of Arthur Miller's A View from the Bridge, Johansson began *gasp* taking on roles that showed she was both beauty and brains. Some may scoff at her as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow, a leather suit-clad superhero in The Avengers (and the upcoming Captain America: Winter Soldier), but she's apparently doing something right if fans are petitioning for a Black Widow spin-off. That's the thing about "ScarJo;" she's exactly how you want her to be when you least expect it.

Which brings us to what could be considered Johansson's most daring and genuine role to date--Samantha in Her. It took embodying the role of a body-less computer operating system, removing her obvious physical appeal from the equation, to earn wide acclaim from not only her peers but also audiences. Without the reliance of what has been perceived as a crutch, using only her voice Johansson reminds you that she needs no bolster to prove what has always been there--pure, unadulterated talent. With Her, we finally see Johansson the actress. She takes her signature alluring naivete and reckless abandon audiences have come to appreciate in order to convey an unbridled love that despite its obvious quirk is more human than any other role she's played. This visceral, unforgettable performance catapults her from promising starlet to bonafide leading lady.

Let's just hope we see more of this.

9 comments:

asrap virtuoso said...

Also this year, she was good in Don Jon. But yeah, only after her role in Her have people started to take notice. I guess some actors need a while in the industry before they become wise in choosing roles. Take a look atMatthew McConaughey for example and how he has transformed his career!

Candice Frederick said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Candice Frederick said...

@asrap virtuoso absolutely. She's really on a roll and choosing roles wisely. Matt Mc as well.

Emmanuel Lopez - Motivatorman said...

Thank you so much Candice for this super supportive post for the great Scarlett Johansson! She has demonstrated a great talent since Horse Whisperer. I feel she should have been nominated for an Oscar for her amazing performance in Her. And yes she is gorgeous which to me just a bonus! Even with very little make up and scruffy looking in We Bought a Zoo she is still so alluring!

Anonymous said...

Geez, you didn't even MENTION "The Island". She was FANTASTIC in it I thought. Awesome movie overall.

Brittani Burnham said...

You know, I've been one to call her overrated at times, because I've never thought of her as a 'good' actress. Just a 'decent' one. But she's really impressed me this year with Her and Don Jon. I think with the right material she can shine. She definitely has this year.

thevoid99 said...

Scar-Jo's time has come now. I became a fan of hers in 2003 thanks to Lost in Translation and Girl with a Pearl Earring as I also checked out some of her early work. Then after some very bad choices like The Black Dahlia, The Island, and The Nanny Diaries. I had a hard time defending her and just resigned to the fact that all of the promise she had back then were gone. Then she started to re-emerge with We Bought a Zoo and The Avengers where it was clear that she is better than many of the actresses that were coming out at the time. 2013 for me is her return-to-form year as I think it's time for Scar-Jo to go out there and whoop some ass. Scar-Jo 3:16 says "I'm gonna out-act all yo' fucking asses! That's the bottom line cause Scar-Jo says so!"

Anonymous said...

Great writing and great argument pro-Scarlett. But after seeing a number of her past and more recent performances, I still fall into the (minority?) camp that believes she's not notably talented as an actress. I do appreciate that she's dared to challenge herself with as much variety in her roles as possible, though.
I also fall into the camp that does not find her "disturbingly gorgeous." I will acknowledge that her looks hark back to a different time, which does give her a different kind of appeal. And she doesn't have the cookie-cutter looks of so many of Hollywood's starlet wannabes, which is refreshing. But I have seen her in the flesh, and while she certainly cleans up well for the red carpet, on a regular day, wearing casual clothes, hair, and makeup--still looking perfectly well groomed--she does not warrant a second glance. Her management and the media machine, in my opinion, have brilliantly formulated that image of her, and branded it ever so firmly into the minds of many.
Just an opinion--a simple one, I know, and perhaps nothing that intelligently contributes to the conversation here. But just my opinion, like anyone else's, all the same.
Thanks for the opportunity to comment.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I still think she's overrated.

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