Manny & Lo Cutie Returns

Tuesday, August 7, 2001

Rising starlet Scarlett Johansson isn't your typical 16-year-old high-school senior. With respectable credits like Manny & Lo and The Horse Whisperer on her permanent record - plus a girlish beauty that makes Neutrogena hawker Jennifer Love Hewitt look over the hill - this youngster don't need no stinking hall pass. In Tinseltown, she can practically write her own ticket.

In An American Rhapsody - in theaters Aug. 10 - she chews scenery as Suzanne, the angsty daughter of Stalin-era Hungarian refugees (Tony Goldwyn, Nastassja Kinski) transplanted into the alien world of 1950s America. Director Eva Gardos - who based Rhapsody on her own true story - boosted Johansson's portrayal by sharing very personal memories with her. Like what Gardos was thinking when she blasted her bedroom door with a shotgun after her overprotective mama had locked her up for breaking curfew!

"One benefit that I had," the actress recalls, "was being able to have Eva say, 'Well, I felt so distraught at this moment... I felt so enraged because, God, I couldn't get out of my room and it was like being caged in like an animal.' Having somebody give you their first-hand account, if anything, made my job easier."

It seems Johansson - who also stars in this year's dark comedies Ghost World and The Man Who Wasn't There - is making a career of playing teen rebels, even if she lacks a cause. "I think there's a pattern of being rebellious [in my characters]," she acknowledges. "Why? I don't know. It's certainly not something that I look for in particular."

Daniel R. Coleridge