This year, Scarlett Johansson is giving moviegoers both worlds of science fiction. Johansson starred in the recent release, Lucy, from director Luc Besson (The Fifth Element, The Professional). Before that, viewers could see her as a woman who fell to Earth in one of the year’s most intriguing sci-fi offerings. While dividing audiences at Cannes, I throughly enjoyed this film, and not for the obvious reason.
A mysterious visitor (Johansson) comes to Earth with the intention of finding a mate, this according to the synopsis on IMDB. Yet, that doesn’t seem to be the case. The impression I get was that her character was more interested in the human experience. But, that interest didn’t develop until being on Earth for a few days.
In the beginning, she’s cold and distant when alone. But, when she interacts with other people, she turns on the charm that ensnares men. Early on, there is one scene at a beach that is genuinely shocking and horrifying. This scene will likely divide viewers. For many, that moment will turn off a lot of people.
From there, she encounters people from various walks of life. One scene has her character talk with a man stricken with Neurofibromatosis, played by Adam Pearson. I have to credit the filmmakers for giving this character real depth during the time he is on-screen and not just using Pearson to shock the audience. Here is where Johansson’s character develops her interest in humanity.
While I haven’t read the book by Michel Faber, I hear the screenplay by director Jonathan Glazer and Walter Campbell is only loosely adapting the source material. Director Glazer and cinematographer Daniel Landin do a great job at presenting situations and sights familiar to many people, yet filmed in a manner that makes them appear alien. There are throw away shots and scenes of mundanity that are of things fixated on by an outsider.
The film alone is worth studying for the dialogue scenes between Johansson and the strangers she picks up. Most of the exchanges were improvised. They likely had a basic outline, but the dialogue itself by Johansson and the other actors were off the cuff. Much of it was clunky and awkward, but it was real. These conversations were as natural as I’ve seen in film.
The music score by Mica Levi is one of the best scores of the year thus far. It affected me on a subconscious level. It doesn’t have much bravado, but done in a minimalist fashion that makes it stand out all the more. Its well worth adding to your collection of soundtracks.
This is a performance by Johansson that stands as her very best. This movie makes her a legitimate talent with range. In scenes where she’s alone, she’s cold and distant. With others, she has a charm that is captivating. Her scenes with Pearman and Michael Moreland were memorable. She has come a long way since when I first saw her in Home Alone 3.
Before I end the review, I should address the proverbial elephant in the room. Yes, she does have scenes of full frontal nudity. During these scenes, the camera doesn’t dwell on her or the lighting is so low that you really can’t see anything. The nudity is done tastefully. If you are only going to see this for the nudity, you’re wasting your time and money.