Regular readers of this site are aware of my love-hate relationship with Scarlett Johansson. Every time I see that she’s gonna be in a new movie, I get this mixed feeling. On the one hand, I’m always looking forward to seeing more of her spectacular breasts, sensational legs and sensual lips. But when my thinking goes back upstairs, I remember how limited her acting abilities are and I worry that she’s gonna be the weak spot of yet another coulda-been great film. Because you gotta give the girl this: she’s got taste (or at least her agent does). Just this year, she’ll go from her second Woody Allen pic in a row (after Match Point) to the latest from Brian De Palma and Christopher Nolan. Not too shabby!
Yet there’s always this sense that those potentially great roles are wasted on her, when they could have really blossomed if they’d gone to equally hot blondes with more charisma and depth like, say, Romola Garai. Who? Garai is this British actress better known (if at all) for bringing some charm to the otherwise mediocre Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights. She only has a smallish part in “Scoop”, but whenever she’s on screen, she blows Johansson off the screen. She should have been the lead! Or how about Reese Witherspoon? Can you imagine how much funnier the banter would have been if Woody had Reese’s flawless comic timing to bounce off instead of Scarlett’s hollow line-reading? Ludivine Sagnier would also have been killer; you’d just have to make the character a French girl in London instead of an American one.
That said (phew!), Johansson is not that bad in “Scoop”. She does surprisingly okay with the fast-talking screwball exchanges even though it’s a bit ridiculous when she invokes Katherine Hepburn and Rosalind Russell – you’re not in that league yet, missy! Plus she definitely fills out a red swimsuit nicely and you certainly don’t have trouble believing Hugh Jackman‘s Peter Lyman would be instantly drawn to her, even though he’s an aristocrat and she’s a “commoner”. I also liked how Woody, probably aware that he couldn’t go toe-to-toe with her, treats her like a kid with a kind of patronizing affection, joking about how she’s “learning disabled” or “promiscuous”.
Shut up already about Scarlett, how’s the rest of the film, you ask? Well, you’ve got some attitude, Mister. So yeah, she’s the weak spot but she hardly ruins “Scoop”, which is minor Allen but still very enjoyable. It revolves around a journalism student, Sondra Pransky (Johansson), who, while spending the summer in England, is visited by the ghost of a famous reporter (Ian McShane) who scored one last scoop from beyond the grave: the infamous Tarot Card Killer who’s been murdering prostitutes is in fact socialite Peter Lyman! Before making the story public, of course, the young woman has to verify it. With the help of a dorky magician (Allen), she infiltrates Lyman’s high society circle and gets closer to him… maybe too close. You see, Sondra has a tendency to sleep with her article subjects, and Peter is no exception. Hence, as her investigation advances, she’s torn between whether she’d rather prove that Lyman is guilty and get the scoop of a lifetime, or exonerate him and let herself fall in love, journalism career be damned.
The plot sometimes feels like a second thought but it’s involving enough, to a large degree because Hugh Jackman manages to project both a kind of debonair decency and hints of a darker side. Meanwhile, Woody obviously delights in getting to poke fun at the British. His one-liners are hit or miss, but he throws so many of them around that you find yourself laughing often enough. Visually, the locations in and around London are wonderful, especially as seen through the warm, rich cinematography of Remi Adefarasin (who also shot Match Point). “Scoop” is an irreverent thriller that most reminds of Manhattan Murder Mystery, even though Scarlett Johansson is no Diane Keaton. But I won’t get into that again! Chances are y’all adore the chick anyway, so you’ll get even more of a kick out of the movie.