Scarlett Johansson sharpens her comedic chops in “Rough Night”

Despite having yet to receive an Academy Award nomination, Scarlett Johansson has developed a reputation as one of Hollywood’s best actresses. Whether she’s in art house fare, kicking ass as part of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe, or anchoring her own bigger budget flicks, she a true A-lister. One of the things she hasn’t done too much of late, but that she has a real aptitude for, is make people laugh. Yes, Johansson is an underrated comedic actress. Whenever she’s gone for humor, she’s succeeded in a big way. With a new release this weekend focusing on that, not only is it a good time to discuss her comic talents, but to reiterate her skill level overall.

This week, she stars in the raunchy female centric comedy Rough Night. In it, Johansson plays Jess, a bride to be who is about to have a bachelorette party to remember. Along with Alice (Jillian Bell), Blair (Zoë Kravitz), Frankie (Ilana Glazer), and Pippa (Kate McKinnon), Jess ends up with more than bargained for when an encounter with a male stripper goes wrong. Awkward hilarity ensues. Lucia Aniello co-writes with Paul W. Downs and directs. The supporting cast here includes Bo Burnham, Ty Burrell, Ryan Cooper, Demi Moore, Dean Winters, and more. At its core, this is a showcase for Johansson to have fun and make audiences laugh.

Here again is a bit that I wrote about her in a previous Spotlight on the Stars article, since this seems like an apt time to pay tribute to her:

“To some, she’s merely a pretty face, but when I look at her, not only do I see a beautiful woman, I also see a criminally underrated actress. From her early days as a child star of sorts to her wonderfully complex leading role in the aforementioned independent film Under the Skin that probably is her best turn so far to date, Johansson has way more to offer than some realize. Folks also don’t always catch on to why she’s chosen some of the projects that she has, but one look at the filmmakers that she’s acted for will give you some clue as to her decisions.

Johansson has worked with directors like Woody Allen, Sofia Coppola, Cameron Crowe, Brian De Palma, Jon Favreau, Spike Jonze, Christopher Nolan, and Joss Whedon. You can argue that one or two of the movies she did with these auteurs aren’t particularly great, but she’s certainly got an eye for working with talented people. That’s usually the mark of a strong actress with a good head on her shoulders. No one makes perfect decisions all the time, but even when the project might be misguided, usually there’s an A-list director that’s been a part of the decision to sign on.

Just as an actress, she’s got more range than a lot of people give her credit for. Compare her performances in Her, Lost in Translation, Match Point, and more recently with Under the Skin, and it’s as if there’s a different actress on display each time. Those four Golden Globe nominations didn’t happen by accident, even if sadly it never translated into an Oscar nod. The Academy in particular missed the boat on a nom for either Lost in Translation or Match Point in my eyes, and don’t even get me started on how they barely considered her that time around for Her.”

Here is how I would rank Johansson’s ten best performances to date:

10. Girl with a Pearl Earring
9. In Good Company
8. The Horse Whisperer
7. A Love Song for Bobby Long
6. Vicky Cristina Barcelona
5. Don Jon
4. Match Point
3. Her
2. Lost in Translation
1. Under the Skin

Honorable Mentions: Ghost World, A Good Woman, Hitchcock, Scoop, and We Bought a Zoo

Be sure to check out Rough Night, in theaters everywhere this weekend!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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