Like many critics I'm working on my list of the best films of the decade. I have been doing lots of shuffling around, swapping some of the films in the top 20 with films in the top ten, just to see how they look. But something occurred to me. A lot of the films had one thing in common: Scarlett Johansson. What does that mean? Does it mean that she's the greatest actor of the decade? Or is she just lucky? I'm not sure what to make of it. I have never interviewed her (I was once all set for a phone interview for Girl with a Pearl Earring that was canceled) so I can't claim to know what she's like in real life. Frankly, she's not the greatest actor in the world; in bad movies she can seem awkward, fumbling with troublesome dialogue. But there's definitely something about her, and it goes beyond her blonde-haired, full-lipped, smoky-voiced, voluptuous beauty. I might make an argument for her as "performer" of the decade.
Let's look at her first great film of the decade, Terry Zwigoff's Ghost World (2001). She plays Rebecca, the best friend of Enid (Thora Birch). They have just graduated high school, and face a long, boring summer. They have long-standing plans to get jobs and rent an apartment together. Rebecca holds to her end of the bargain, but Enid becomes sidetracked with a summer class and a friendship with a nerdy record collector (Steve Buscemi). When they are together, Rebecca and Enid have a funny, dark, cynical rapport. Rebecca is good at keeping up with her friend, but there's the tiniest hint that she's getting tired of it, that she wants to move on. Johansson was only 16 here, and two years younger than Birch, but she seems much older and perhaps wearier.