The Gertrudis Award / April 2, 2002

2001's Gertrudis Award is awarded to Scarlett Johnasson. After an outstanding year during which Scarlett starred in not one, or two, but three independent films, it seemed natural to present her with our breakout award. Scarlett made her movie debut in Rob Reiner's ambitious but poorly received film North. She took small part with big stars like Sean Connery in Just Cause and Sarah Jessica Parker in If Lucy Fell, before surprising us all by taking a starring role in a little-seen but well-liked film, Manny & Lo. Lisa Krueger's directorial debut finds Scarlett playing Amanda (Manny) as the younger of two sisters who run away from their respective adoptive parents. After kidnapping a baby store clerk played by the marvelous Mary Kay Place, a surprising and warm relationship develops between the older woman and young girls. Johansson is terrific as the young girl following her older sister's lead as an independent rebel, yet longing for a stable home and a parent's love.

Johansson followed up this terrific star turn with parts in a notable studio film, Robert Redford's The Horse Whisperer, so it was a pleasant surprise that found her starring in three independent films in 2001. Her highest profile of the three parts was as the high school outcast Rebecca in Ghost World (for which she is nominated as Best Supporting Actress.) Playing opposite Thora Birch's Enid, Johansson faces the difficult task of showing the audience that she is indeed an outcast, but then slowly bringing her to a place where she matures into a realization that it's time to leave the outcast barbs of high school behind and take her place in society as a young woman. Scarlett gives a warm and utterly convincing performance in what could have been a one-dimensional part.

In American Rhapsody, Scarlett had the unenviable task of playing the daughter of Hungarian parents who fled their country during the communist regime. Coming of age in 1950's and 1960's California, Scarlett's Suzanne embodies the rebellious teen, as well as a young woman struggling to understand her mother and her heritage. Despite a flawed film, she does so with grace and a naturalness that highlights her talent.

Finally, in the much lauded The Man Who Wasn't There, Scarlett plays Birdy Abundas, a young woman with a talent for the piano, whom Billy Bob Thornton's Hank latches onto as a chance to do some good in the world after his own personal life falls apart in tatters. Scarlett once again plays the 1950's teenager who is quite, demure, respectful, yet this time quite normal. She quietly holds her own with the Chlotrudis nominated Thornton and brings a complex dimension to a small role. --mrc

"I'm continually impressed by Scarlett Johansson. She first caught my attention in Manny & Lo, and I've been watching out for her ever since. I think she makes interesting choices in roles, not falling into the trap of doing all commercial films, unlike the majority of actresses her age. In her three 2001 films, she offered a real range of her talents. I felt that she was one of the only sucessful parts of American Rhapsody, going beyond the oft-played angsty teen with restrictive parents, she was an excellent foil to Thora Birch's manic behavior in Ghost World, and although her subplot in The Man Who Wasn't There never quite fully developed, I thought she offered a fine, subtle performance in what was ultimately a character-driven film filled with great performances. I look forward to seeing her career develop over the coming years as she moves into "adult" roles." -- hn

"In Ghost World, Scarlett deftly carries the character of Rebecca from maudlin high school outcast toward maturing, mainstream citizen in a gentle transition as the sidekick and voice of common sense to contrast Thora Birch's Enid." -- asd