At the weekend, I had the misfortune of watching three quite terrible movies. The only virtue they all shared was that they were rather short – in the vicinity of 90 minutes apiece. One of them featured Scarlett Johansson, who happens to be an actor I am a fan of; usually, I find her movies worth watching (when the director/s can stop lingering on her physical attributes, that is, and just allow her to be a human being, doing a job). This particular film, however, couldn’t be saved even by her, even though she was as engaging as ever to watch.
One of its plot points centred on violence being perpetrated on Johansson’s character, which had an undercurrent of sexual threat to it. For the rest of the movie, as her character grows in intelligence and ability, it is matched with an increase in her sexual allure. This – I’ll be honest here – annoyed me. Not as much as the movie’s overall ludicrousness, admittedly, but still.
The second movie featured female characters as either a) something to be saved, or b) something for the male characters to be rewarded with. The third featured women as little more than decoration, focusing on sexual attributes even when a woman’s sexuality had nothing to do with her character or her role in the film, and making the same woman (for there was only really one female character in the whole thing) into a helpless ‘daddy’s girl’ when the plot called for it.
Sometimes, one would be forgiven for forgetting that this is the twenty-first century.
As well as that, though, the movies were bad because there was absolutely no story to any of them. The Johansson vehicle, I’ll admit, started off well – largely because of her skills as an actor, and the fact that the first half of the movie actually has a point – but the last half-hour to forty-five minutes was devoted to swirling special effects and mumbo-jumbo. The final frames made me want to destroy something.
I haven’t walked out of a movie theatre for years. In fact, I can’t remember the film that was showing the one and only time I did, but I know it wasn’t as bad as this one. I would happily have walked out of this film halfway through, however, and because I didn’t I now know I missed absolutely nothing.
It’s almost like the movie-maker expected Scarlett Johansson’s beauty to convey an entire movie. Perhaps there are viewers who are happy to sit and watch her do little else but exist on screen and still come away feeling like they’ve had a rich cultural experience, but I’m not one of those viewers. That she is a beautiful woman can be seen in the first five to ten seconds of first encountering her; it doesn’t need to be the primary – or, indeed, the only – thing of note about her. Why is it? Why can’t female actors simply be actors, people pretending to be assassins or scientists or geniuses or whatever it is, without cameras hesitating to move away from their bodies or hovering over their lips as they speak or the plotline making them seem vacuous, stupid, powerless and of value only insofar as they relate to a man?
In fact, I also caught some of a James Bond movie at the weekend, too, released in 1965. Sadly, that movie was more female-positive than any of the modern films I watched. It featured female characters playing pivotal and interesting roles (in fact, one even saves James Bond’s skin at the end), and it allowed them to be intelligent and sparky. It showed scenes where their power and pleasure was to the fore. Importantly, not one of the actresses – not one – looked thin enough to blow away in a strong breeze.
I’ll be in my cave if anyone wants me.