Tuesday, January 21, 2014
Now Can We Finally Stop Calling Scarlett Johansson Overrated?
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characters like Olivia in The Prestige, Rebecca in Ghost World and Charlotte in Lost in Translation--three women who superseded their ages yet inhabited enough wide-eyed wonder to capture audiences.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.