“I always feel like I have to prove myself as an actor, otherwise you get lazy if you’re not slightly terrified that you’re going to fail all the time.” – Scarlett Johansson
Scarlett Johansson, an ordinary child with extraordinary talents, started early in the film industry. Her roles which cannot be typecast into a particular genre has led her to become one of the highest-grossing actresses of all time. However, Johansson has always been vocal of the disparities that lie within Hollywood regarding misogyny and pay gap, a key aspect which makes her even more inspirational.
Versatile and phenomenal, Scarlett has a commanding on-screen presence that captivates the audience from beginning till the very end. Scarlett Johansson is well-known for her role as the Russian spy Black Widow in MCU films. Clad in a sleek, black suit, she is lithe, agile and formidable. Brave and a risk-taker, Johansson has always believed in portraying a variety of roles in her films but unfortunately, is typecast as Black Widow. Quite recently, her role as a newly single woman recuperating from her divorce in Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story has helped her gain worldwide acclaim. her performance is phenomenal and tear-inducing, as always.
Netflix has been gracious enough to stream quite a few of this stunner’s films. Besides MCU film franchise, the streaming platform comprises films from different genres that vividly depict the actress’s versatility and acting prowess. Her standalone film Black Widow is scheduled for release on 29 April, 2021, where the fans will get an insight into Natasha Romanoff’s murky past where she was given up to the KGB as a baby and how she developed skills and tactics as a top-notch spy for survival.
Until then, to prevent the Johansson-shaped hole in our heart from expanding further, as the actor turns 36 today, we have decided to compile a list comprising of her 10 best films currently streaming in Netflix
Let’s get started.
“He saw me across the room and he honed in on me like a guided missile.”
In her first collaboration with Woody Allen, Scarlett Johansson plays the seductive struggling American actress and Tom Hewett’s fiancee, Nola Rice. Chris Wilton, a retired tennis player and Tom’s mentor, is instantly attracted to her and proposes to begin a clandestine affair. When Nola gets pregnant with Chris’ child, it poses a threat which leads to an ominous ending.
Chris is a vile social-climber who was supposedly “doing just fine” till Nola showed up. Johansson plays the classic heartbreaker in Woody Allen films, seductive and beautiful. Compared to her previous roles where she imbued with innocence, Johansson is sexy and dangerous, mature and authoritative. She is the embodiment of lust and frenzy that drives the protagonist Chris to stop at nothing to ‘obtain’ her.
Morbid and possibly not one of their best films, The Man Who Wasn’t There revolves around Ed Crane, a barber, who decides to blackmail his wife Doris and her lover for money to commence a dry cleaning business. Howe=ver, when it does not go according to plan, he decides to become the manager for Birdy, a talentless musician who is also his friend’s daughter.
This was Scarlett Johansson’s first collaboration with the Coen Brothers. She plays the wistful Birdy whose on-screen presence is slight yet indelible. Her piano notes transfix the brutish and melancholy Ed. She is the manifestation of the beautiful escape he craves, the escape that shall provide him respite from the drudgery of his own life, however, like her name, she is as swift as a bird- elusive, tender and full of surprises.
In her third collaboration with Allen, Johansson plays Christina, one of the two American women who have travelled to Barcelona to spend their summer. They meet the artist Juan Antonio and get floored by him. The latter is attracted to them both as well as smitten by his emotionally unstable ex-wife Maria Elena. This leads to altercations and trouble in the friends’ paradise.
Of all Allen films, Johansson delivers her best performance here as Christina, the free-spirited bohemian girl. She is not a stereotypical hippie; she is in search of something that seems too hard to achieve, as she is conflicted over her desires and goals. The aesthetic beauty of the shoot locations heighten the sense of love and loss; an irreplaceable sense of melancholy pervades the film. Johansson manages to bring her character to life in a nuanced manner, her acting is “syrup: fluid and sweet”, which enriches the “beguiling tragicomedy” that is Vicky Christina Barcelona.
“I don’t know what I want. I only know what I don’t want.”
An American student at Taipei, Lucy, gets tricked unknowingly to work as a ‘drug mule’. During a scuffle, she consumes the nootropic CPH4 drug which enables psychokinetic abilities in Lucy. she embarks on a spacetime journey to discover secrets, while her body transforms beyond human.
Besson reportedly wanted to find an actress “who could be believable as extremely vulnerable, as well as superpowered, when her exposure to an illicit substance inadvertently makes her acquire incredible skills.” Scarlett Johansson bagged the role due to her commitment and discipline. Johansson is charming on screen, the film sows in the seeds of the notion that a woman can save humanity and the world. While some may ponder over the hidden easter eggs in the film, others might simply question ‘What the fuck is this film?’. Lucy ends on an ambiguous and ominous note where her omniscient voiceover can be heard stating:
“I am everywhere. Life was given to us a billion years ago. Now you know what to do with it.”
Based on Daniel Clowes’ comics of the same name, the film revolves around a pair of best friends, Enid and Rebecca who are both cynical, social outcasts. Their friendship goes through a trying time when Enid takes interest in an older man, loner Seymour’s love life and grows determined to help him find someone. The girls grow apart and while Rebecca moves on with her life, having received a scholarship to art school, Enid is stuck in this continuum.
Although Thora Birch as Enid is the protagonist of the story, Scarlett steals the show. In her short on-screen time, she manages to have a magnetic effect on the audience. Her dry and acerbic humour and indifferent voice is a perfect fit for the cynical Rebecca. However, she is not a blockhead and is eager to grow into a mature version of herself. Both Birch and Johansson are uncannily similar to our teenage selves with their “adolescent agonies” and general dread for the outside world. Although the film later steers in Enid and Seymour’s direction, the absence of Rebecca is strongly felt in the film till the very end as we tend to miss the tender friendship shared by the two girls.
“He doesn’t even need the wheelchair, he’s just totally lazy.”
The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has had a massive fan following. With recurrent superheroes like Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Hulk, Black Widow and Hawkeye comprising an invincible group termed the Avengers, evil forces are defeated and cities are saved. While all these superheroes have standalone movies (except Hawkeye and Black Widow; the latter is soon getting her film), there are several others, namely Spider-man, Doctor Strange, Ant-man, Guardians of the Galaxy, Black Panther etc . who are fan favourites and have appeared together in the biggest ensemble film of all time, Avengers: Endgame (2019).
Natasha Romanoff initially starred as the Russian antagonist-spy in Iron Man after which she became a recurring ally of the Avengers. Scarlett Johansson, who plays a magnificent and resplendent Black Widoe is smart, cunning and agile. She later revealed that Marvel renewed her contract based on the “demand of the character” not having anticipated the “great reaction” of the audience to her performance. Do we smell teeny-weeny misogyny? Scarlett, who initially had “a bit of a freak-out moment” on seeing the catsuit, thinking if she could perform her stunts in the tight one-piece, agreed that she was tailor-made for the role of the Black Widow. “The Black Widow character resonated with me… [She] is a superhero, but she’s also human. She’s small, but she’s strong… She is dark and has faced death so many times that she has a deep perspective on the value of life… It’s hard not to admire her.” Bruce Banner aka the Hulk is Natasha’s love interest. Fans are waiting excitedly for Scarlett’s standalone film that is set to be released in 2021. Watch the trailer below.
“At some point, we all have to choose between what the world wants you to be and who you are.”
“I have a place about 30 minutes away. Will you come with me there?”
In this film, Scarlett Johansson is both a watcher and predator of men”. Showing humanity via an alien perspective, the film revolves around an otherworldly woman, played by Johansson, who seduces and preys on men in the Scottish Highlands, under the alias of Laura. The film’s haunting tone subverts the stereotypical sexual aggression; here, the men are vulnerable while the woman is is aggressive and predatory.
Although it had failed at the box office, Scarlett had received acclaim for her splendid performance. The film, hideously splendid, was received as “far and away, the best picture”. It was stunning yet disturbing; Johansson explained her decision to join this “prickly sci-fi”, “I thought it would be incredibly challenging to play a character that’s free of judgment, that has no relationship to any emotion I could relate to.” As an extraterrestrial woman on a literal manhunt, she is grotesque yet enigmatic. Subversive, the film exposes the ugly side of being a woman’s object of affection. The constant dichotomy between beauty and hideousness is heightened when her emotional vacancy and menacity is overwhelmed by her ability to feel wherein the tragedy lies. Johansson is terrifying, magnetic, beautiful and lovely in this film.
“You know what’s Interesting? I used to be..so worried about not having a body, but now I… I truly love it. You know, I’m growing in a way I couldn’t if I had a physical form. I mean, I’m not limited. I can be anywhere and everywhere simultaneously. I’m not tethered to time and space in a way that I would be if I was stuck in a body that’s inevitably gonna die.”
Spike Jonze’s brilliant 2014 film Her leaves a profound impact on the audience, irrespective of whether they enjoy the romantic genre or not. The film is a blend of the sci-fi and rom-com genres, bringing with it the best of both worlds. Theodore Twombly is lonely and depressed- he is a recluse who composes letters on behalf of people who cannot find the right words to articulate their emotions. Ironically, Theodore is not very good at expressing his feelings and is going through a divorce with his childhood sweetheart. Struggling to come to terms with reality, he escapes it completely when he befriends (and later falls in love with) an artificial intelligence who prefers to call herself Samantha. Though intangible, Samantha leaves an everlasting impact on Theodore’s mind, helping him cope with his feelings. Surreal and bizarre, this love story takes an interesting turn when Theodore attempts to get physically intimate with a woman embodying Samantha yet fails as he realises how unbridgeable the gap is.
Her, which is both an insightful and unsettling take on the near future, addresses a very important question “How to be Human?” Joaquin Phoenix is meticulous in his portrayal of the lonely and forlorn Theodore, who is desperate to find someone who understands him. He is tormented by his messy divorce and finally seeks solace in an AI which is not physically present yet manages to add colour to his monochromatic life. Scarlett Johansson lends her voice to Samantha- her soothing voice mesmerizes the audience. She is fun and flirty and behaves just like she has been programmed. Though Johansson never appears on the screen, she is omnipresent. This peculiar human-AI relationship is quite convincing- it puts forward the popular notion that falling in love would lead to inevitable heartbreaks which in turn could be beautiful and magical. It ends on a solemn yet promising note- the sunrise would indicate a new relationship. This film is a tear-jerker; the audience would oddly be at peace once they immerse themselves in this story, yet quickly snap out of it in fear, dreading the reality that is right around the corner.
Sofia Coppola’s film brings about a fuzzy feeling in your heart while breaking it at the same time. The main characters share a “romantic melancholy” that permeates through the screen. A middle-aged American actor Bob Harris, having faced marital problems and the anxieties of being at the waning phase of his career, goes to Tokyo to promote Suntory whiskey. Charlotte, a Yale University graduate, accompanies her photographer husband to Japan. While her husband pursues his dreams, Charlotte grows more disillusioned, till she stumbles upon Bob, and together, they form a beautiful bond of poetic conversations and shared sadness.
The title of the film is apt and sets the melancholy mood. The shared whisper at the end of the film is not discernible; somehow, it is reflective of the hushed and intimate affair the two hapless souls shared. Scarlett Johansson and Bill Murray work in tandem to bring out the best in one another; Bill’s tender and intimate side is portrayed for the very first time on-screen while he helps bring out the disillusionment and loneliness in a girl who has followed her ambitious husband without a fixed purpose of her own. The juxtaposition of their crises is quite interesting as they are quite similar yet different. In Coppola’s autobiographical tale, Charlotte is perfect and resplendent as she slowly outgrows her innocence, much like Scarlett herself, “the cute little girl with that husky voice”, who was a mere 17-year-old when she played this part maturely and with the perfect amount of indulgence.
“I just don’t know what I’m supposed to be.”
“You and I both know you chose this life. You wanted it until you didn’t.”
Baumbach’s film is a stinging tale of rocky marriages that end in divorces and how it affects the life of the couple as well as the child. Theatre director Charlie Barber is in an estranged marital relationship with his wife, Nicole. Following disagreements and heartbreaks, the couple decides to part ways, sharing custody of their son Henry. The legal world of divorce and separation is, however, extremely filthy, and threatens the sanctity of their friendship.
In what is supposedly one of the most realistic films to date, Baumbach elaborates on how the process of going through a divorce is an isolated experience. It celebrates the end of an era shared closely by two people who find it difficult to fill in the gulf created in their respective lives after respective departures. It is a tender commentary on the uncoupling of a marital union and sharing the custody of the child. Detailed and tastefully balanced, Marriage Story is devoid of the usual melodrama that dominates the screen in such movies. Via the growing anxiety, tension and heartache, the film preserves the precious moments that follow legal as well as emotional separation. Both Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson are phenomenal in the balanced script; they play their roles, as two individuals who love each other yet cannot be together, with effortless ease. Their chemistry is undeniable on-screen, as is their emotional anguish for having to deal with contentious divorce proceedings. The film is a precious masterpiece that via its calm, composed pace and heart-rending narrative make the viewers want to re-evaluate themselves as well as their relationships.
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