If four of her last five films are any indication, Scarlett Johansson leaves much to be desired on the silver screen (that is, if you’re actually interested in her performances), but on Broadway, she’s been getting rave reviews—and last night, won a Tony Award, her first, for her role in Arthur Miller’s tale, “A View from the Bridge.”
From the beginning of her Broadway debut, Johansson had her share of skeptics. There was much cynicism about her critical value to a play beyond the brightly lit marquee name that would surely boost ticket sales. And why not? With the exception of Woody Allen’s “Vicky, Cristina Barcelona” in which she essentially plays a witless bleached-blonde bimbo, her recent slate of films has favored the Blockbuster (“Iron Man 2”), the ensemble-star-feature (“He’s Just Not That Into You”, in which she plays another bimbo type) or the novel that should never have been made into a film in the first place (“The Other Boleyn Girl”, though in all fairness it did give us “The Hot Knishes”).
Critics have reason to lament the state of what has become a dull and dispiriting film career—and that Johansson, in particular, is handled with occasional disgust is because her breakout in “Lost in Translation” looked so promising.
No one expected much from her on the stage. Which was precisely when Johansson decided to unleash her sleeping inner-actress upon Broadway. Just after her Tony nomination, Charles Isherwood wrote in The New York Times that “Ms. Johansson’s forceful, intelligent and moving performance opposite Liev Schreiber in Miller’s common-man tragedy became a modest game changer, or at least a shutter-upper of the determined naysayers.” He continued, “Onstage she was vibrant and natural, but the performance went beyond a charismatic portrait of innocence to reveal far more delicate nuances…”
And last night, Johansson received Broadway’s highest honor—the Tony. It’s worth hoping that this might be the turnaround a young actress with a powerful screen presence may have needed to realign herself. Because while she may have Broadway street cred, she has yet to turn in a command performance for Hollywood worthy of that other golden gem named Oscar.