Is Scarlett Johansson a modern icon for beauty? Did she just set a standard on which we can compare women, physically speaking? Apart from the curvaceous body, the husky, seductive voice and the dazzling features, Scarlett proved that it is not just her sexiness that seeps through screens and into our souls. “Her” spirit does.
Johansson’s recent performance in “Her”, Spike Jonze’s romantic, sci-fi drama about a heartbroken man -Joaquin Phoenix- who falls in love with his artificially intelligent computer operating system, Samantha. In the movie Johansson plays Samantha in a way that awed critics who watched its premiere at New York Film Festival. Her (voice) portrayal as the funny, philosophical and wide-eyed Samantha created an emotional connection between her and the viewer that probably many actresses appearing on screen won’t be able to.
With only her voice all through the movie, Johansson voices Samantha in various stages as well as convincing the viewer that this AI program has needs and desires, romantically and sexually speaking. The relationship in the movie is mutual and due to Johansson’s rave performance it is believable and quite sympathetic. It kind of makes you wonder how far we are emotionally and socially detached from each other that we seek refugee in high-tech.
Is Scarlett the secret beyond Samantha being so realistic? Or is it Joquin Phoenix’s tremendous performance? Or is it Jonze’s universal script and mix between whimsicality and passion? We should give credit to all three, also to the abundance of fleshy and to-the-point characters where no one seems out of place. But would Samantha feel the same and emit the same aura if Scarlett Johansson hadn’t replaced the original casting choice: Samantha Morton? Leave it to the critics to gush about Johansson for years. In addition to the immense praising Esquire’s “Sexiest Woman on Earth” has been receiving, there are whispers that “Her” would garner Johansson her first Academy Award nomination and -hopefully- win?
Johansson cleverly dismisses the speculations by saying that she is disconnected from the awards processes and that it is all “abstract politics to her”.
Can a voice performance garner an Oscar nod, let alone an Award? Well, rules are meant to be broken. In 2009, Heath Ledger’s performance set an example for making history by winning the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor despite his death from drug intoxication in January, 2008. Ledger had become the second person to win a posthumous Academy Award for acting, after fellow Australian actor, Peter Finch.
Will Johansson be a first and get that award with only her voice acting abilities put to the test? We can’t say she doesn’t deserve it. It was a challenge and Johansson more than lived up to it. With such strong and emotional performance she proved that she was not just a distracting, sex bomb, but also an “old soul” of sorts, one who can mystify as many film critics as those glued to their seats in the New York Film Festival. The days will prove that there will be more “Scarlett Johansson for Oscars 2014” supporters and campaigners added to the list. All-in-all, 2013 has been one lucky year for Johansson (Don Jon, Esquire and now Her), let’s hope 2014 is even a luckier one.
“Her” gets its US release in December, 2013.
Watch the trailer for Scarlett Johansson’s voice-centric movie here:
Written by: Jaylan Salah