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Get ensnared in the films of ‘Madame Web’ star Dakota Johnson

Katie Walsh – Tribune News Service (TNS)

With her latest film, actress Dakota Johnson adds superhero to her extensive, and often eccentric resume. The actress, the daughter of “Working Girl” Melanie Griffith and “Miami Vice” Don Johnson (stepdaughter of “Zorro” Antonio Banderas) and the granddaughter of iconic Hitchcock blonde Tippi Hedren (“The Birds,” “Marnie”) knows Hollywood, and she’s made a wide array of interesting and outre choices in her career. So let’s run down the best of Dakota Johnson in advance of her “Madame Web” debut.

While Johnson made a memorable but brief appearance in the star-studded “The Social Network” in 2010 (streaming on Starz or rent) in a scene opposite Justin Timberlake (their recent “Saturday Night Live” episode was a reunion of sorts, streaming on Peacock), her first breakthrough was the charming but short-lived 2012 comedy sitcom “Ben and Kate” playing a single mom whose brother helps raise her daughter (available to purchase on Amazon or iTunes).

But Johnson became a star after her turn in the erotic drama “Fifty Shades of Grey” in 2015, opposite Jamie Dornan, based on the blockbuster BDSM-lite erotica series by E. L. James. Johnson brought a fearlessness and her signature sly knowingness to the naif Anastasia Steele in this campy titillation, which persisted for two sequels, “Fifty Shades Darker” and “Fifty Shades Freed.” Stream all three movies on Max or Peacock — they’re a perfect Valentine’s Day binge.

But as she was starring in “Fifty Shades,” she was also experimenting with much more daring work with Italian auteur Luca Guadagnino, starring in “A Bigger Splash” (2015), and holding her own against Tilda Swinton, Ralph Fiennes and Matthias Schoenaerts. This sexy, dangerous European summer vacation flick is a loose remake of the French thriller directed by Jacques Deray starring Alain Delon and Romy Schneider; Johnson plays a version of the young daughter who’s brought along on the trip originally played by Jane Birkin. Rent “A Bigger Splash” on all platforms and stream “La Piscine” on Max and the Criterion Channel.

Johnson and Guadagnino collaborated on another remake in 2018, tackling Dario Argento’s 1977 giallo cult classic “Suspiria.” This witchy horror film is set in a German ballet school, and while Argento’s stylish but slim genre picture loosely plays with the coven concept, Guadagnino goes deep on the idea, expanding the lore to extreme ends and tying it up with political issues of Germany in the 1970s. Johnson is a sinister force as a young dancer who auditions for the school and ascends to the highest order quickly. She co-stars opposite Swinton again, who plays a surprising variety of roles. Stream “Suspiria” (1977) on Tubi, Kanopy and Showtime, and “Suspiria” (2018) on Prime Video or rent elsewhere.

Johnson has also dabbled in rom-com territory, with the cute and underrated “How to Be Single” in 2016 (streaming on Hulu), and in the charming 2020 L.A. music scene dramedy “The High Note,” playing assistant to a singing diva played by Tracee Ellis Ross (streaming on Peacock and for rent elsewhere).

She also shined in her mysterious and mercurial way in Maggie Gyllenhaal’s critically acclaimed “The Lost Daughter,” as a young mother on vacation in Greece crossing paths with Olivia Colman’s troubled university professor reckoning with her own past. Johnson holds her own against Colman, becoming the third point of a triad of motherhood the film explores, along with Jessie Buckley, who plays Colman’s character as a young mother. It’s a terrific film, stream it on Netflix.

So whether “Madame Web’s” campy charms work for you or not, there’s plenty more interesting films starring Dakota Johnson to explore.


(Katie Walsh is the Tribune News Service film critic and co-host of the “Miami Nice” podcast.)

©2024 Tribune Content Agency, LLC

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