Top Five: Scarlett Johansson

Top Five is a new feature here on Filmophilia where we draw your attention to five memorable performances by a great actor or actress (you may remember a feature on Joseph Gordon-Levitt). This week we pay our respects to Scarlett Johansson.

Now hold up, didn’t you just read in the My Week with Marilyn trailer review that “the role of Marilyn was originally supposed to go to the gorgeous Scarlett Johansson, but with Michelle Williams we’re certainly getting a better actress“? Well, with all due respect to my fellow writers, and I don’t mean to slander Michelle either, she is a very good actress indeed, I have to say that I respectfully disagree. Here’s why I think Scarlett is not just a pretty face and a perfect body.


1. Lost in Translation

One of my favorite movies of all time (yes, I’ve heard that “nothing happens in it”, action is not the point of the movie), Lost in Translation tells a beautiful “love story” of two people who can’t seem to find themselves but find each other instead. Set in the gorgeously buzzing Tokyo, Scarlett portrays the just-finished-my-degree-what-on-earth-am-I-going-to-do-with-my-life-riddled Charlotte effortlessly. In fact, it seems so effortless you might think there was nothing to her acting. But you’d be mistaken.

2. The Prestige

Another favorite of mine. Scarlett plays Olivia, a magician’s assistant sent from Angier (Hugh Jackman) to rival Borden (Christian Bale) to steal his secrets, but hurt by Angier’s indifference to her, she gives Borden his secrets instead, and her heart along with it. The story may play around the feud between the two magicians, and portrays human sacrifice and obsession flawlessly, but the two girls caught in the war zone (Johansson and Rebecca Hall) play a significant role in producing sympathy for the two rivals.

3. Vicky Cristina Barcelona

 Another film featuring both Rebecca Hall and Johansson. The two play friends who travel to Barcelona, only to find themselves tangled in a web of  spanish love, who they both have for the same man, Juan (Javier Bardem). Vicky (Rebecca) pulls out, but  Cristina (Scarlett) is drawn into a love triangle between Juan, herself and his ex-wife Maria (Penelópe Cruz). It all plays out in a very entertaining way and Woody Allen plays to Scarlett’s innocent sexuality perfectly. See Match Point as well for a more dangerous Scarlett (she’s pretty amazing in that film) and an even more entertaining Allen.

4. The Man Who Wasn’t There

 Possibly the most underrated Coen brothers’ film to date. As with every one of their films, this is a tale of greed and the hope for sudden wealth. Billy Bob Thornton shows us once and for all why Angelina Jolie fell in love with him as he portrays Ed Crane, a barber who seems to drift through life until he finds his wife cheating on him with her boss, and decides to blackmail him. Scarlett plays the beautiful and innocent pianist Birdy and a daughter to his friend. Ed wants to give the talented girl more opportunities than a small town can grant her but, like everything else in his life, that goes horribly wrong. You might think Scarlett’s role in this film is a bit “blink and you miss it” but I can’t recommend this film enough, and her performance in it, albeit short, is amazing.

5. Ghost World

Say what? You may or may not have heard of this film and I’ll tell you why. It’s another one of those movies where nothing really happens. It’s just about life. And I love it. Two best friends, Enid (Thora Birch) and Rebecca (Johansson) have just finished high school. The summer is laid out for them. But Enid is taking an art class in summer school while Rebecca works her ass off for an apartment, making all sorts of coffee. They encounter a strange pathetic little man via a practical joke, by the name of Seymour (Steve Buscemi) and by their choices their friendship becomes estranged. Another effortless performance from Scarlett and another of my favorite films of all time.Image Detail