I think that Scarlett Johansson is currently the coolest human being on the planet, and I’m not saying that just because, like me, she’s a stunningly beautiful, deeply gifted and sensual Jewish woman. In her new hit movie Lucy, Scarlett plays a girl studying something or other in Taiwan, who’s forced to become a drug mule and who, after she accidentally receives an extremely high dosage of a new designer substance, becomes the smartest person who’s ever lived and experiences the birth of the universe. And of course all I kept thinking was: this is my story.
Just this past weekend when I was out on Long Island, transferring two 12-packs of paper towels into my mini-van at Costco, a woman rammed me with her jumbo shopping cart from behind. This woman claimed that she couldn’t see me because her own cart was piled so high with five 64-packs of toilet paper. We got into a terrible shouting match which resulted in me screaming, “Who needs that much toilet paper? Is your cooking that bad?” Anyway, for the rest of the weekend, my lower back was aching so badly that I took three Advils and I asked my husband Josh if I could also have a Margarita, and when he said that mixing drugs and alcohol is never a good idea, I just thought to myself, Josh, you’re an orthodontist, which isn’t the same thing as being a real doctor, so I took the pills with an iced coffee spiked with skim milk and tequila.
And that’s when, just like with Scarlett, my mind started to expand.
Scarlett’s progress is monitored by Morgan Freeman, as a scientist who studies what he keeps calling “cerebral capacity”, as if Scarlett’s head was an advanced washer/dryer. According to Morgan, most humans only use a few percentage points of their brains, but when Scarlett hits 20%, she can not only crawl on the ceiling, but she can disable a platoon of armed gunmen within seconds and even more impressively, without visiting a salon or even using her hands, she can change both her hair color and the length of her bangs. When I started functioning at 20%, I found that I could not only swallow an entire sleeve of Oreos without chewing, but that I was suddenly able to fast-forward through DVR’d TV shows where, according to an introductory onscreen warning, the FAST FORWARD FUNCTION WAS NOT AVAILABLE.
Once Scarlett reaches 40%, she’s able to drive super-fast the wrong way through the streets of Paris, which means that the drug has somehow made her French. Then her body starts to morph into all sorts of strange shapes, she kisses a rugged French detective, and she acquires a gorgeous black cocktail dress and a pair of Louboutin spike heels. As for me, at 40% I found that I was able, for the first time in my life, to order a batch of slouchy leather totebags from QVC, in every color – okay, this wasn’t actually the first time when this had happened, but it was the first time I’d done it without telling myself, “You need the Washed Periwinkle bag in case you’re ever invited to a wedding where the invitation stipulates Wear Washed Periwinkle.”
Finally, as Scarlett nears 100%, she begins to envision the entire history of the world in Times Square, starting in the present day and then, in super fast-motion, regressing to the 1800s, when there were dirt roads and gaslights; then back to the days when Native Americans rode their horses right through what’s now a Marriot and a Forever 21; and then zipping even further back, to when the dinosaurs roamed right through what would now be a matinee of Matilda, as if the dinosaurs were tourists from Wyoming who’d gotten half-price tickets because they’d heard that the show was good but not great. Once I started to circle 100%, I had a similar reaction to Scarlett’s, only at first I experienced a Spice Girls video which had also been shot in fast-motion in Times Square. Then I saw the Times Square of the 1980s, when it was still a dangerous neighborhood without any available yogurt or smoothies, and then I hurtled even further back to my earliest childhood, when there was a Howard Johnson’s and absolutely no people dressed as Spiderman who spit at you if, after you’ve had your picture taken with your arm around them, you only tip them a dollar.
It was a little hard to figure out, but ultimately Scarlett turns into either God or a super-computer or a Discovery Channel documentary called something like A Day In The Life Of Our Big Old World. The reason I love Scarlett is that she manages to star in a movie like this while still seeming smart, sexy and funny; she takes the whole thing seriously, but not too much. Scarlett has now given completely delightful performances in everything from Woody Allen movies to sci-fi blockbusters, and she’s even won a well-deserved Tony for her first time on Broadway. And as with the greatest stars, she makes it all look easy.
As for me, once I’d recovered from my overdose, my lower back felt much better, and I found that someone in our house had eaten an entire box of delicious extra-spicy dog treats. So, as with Lucy, my mind-exploding day had been something of a cautionary tale. I learned that maybe, just like Sarah Palin, I don’t need to use all of my brain all of the time. Just like with wearing linen or anything strapless, I think I’ll save my entire brain for special occasions, if you ask me.