Anthony Lane is moved to near-ecstasy by Scarlett Johansson, especially her work in the new Under the Skin. When was the last time a piece on Johansson mentioned The Nanny Diaries?
By any reckoning, “Under the Skin,” which is directed by Jonathan Glazer, is Johansson’s best movie to date. She will never make a more unlikely one. It is a science-fiction film, and a horror story, but much of it resembles a documentary. She describes her role as “so revealing that it’s ugly at times.” It shows her at her boldest and her most withheld: she yields herself up, without demur, and yet keeps so much in check that the outcome will reduce many viewers to a state of confusion and rage. Nobody is more alive to the weirdness of this situation than Johansson. It reminds her, she told me, of watching “Eyes Wide Shut”—“the first Kubrick I ever saw in the cinema. The first time I hated it, the second time I loved it, by the third time I was obsessed.” Not until the première of “Under the Skin” at the Venice Film Festival, last September, did she have a chance to view it with an audience. “I didn’t breathe the entire time,” she says. “I remember looking over at Jonathan at the end of that screening, and people were simultaneously standing and applauding and booing, and Jonathan looked like a kid in a candy store.”